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Warfare and History 


Holy Warriors at the Dawn of History 

William]. Hamblin 

Warfare in the Ancient Near East to 1600 BC 

'Hamblin's book is a goldmine of information - both textual and archaeological - 
on ancient Near Eastern warfare before the Late Bronze Age.' 

Professor Robert Drews, Vanderbilt University 

For many historians, military history began in Classical Greece. Chronologically, 
however, half of recorded military history occurred before the Greeks rose to 
military predominance. In this groundbreaking and fascinating study, William J. 
Hamblin synthesises current knowledge of early ancient Near Eastern military 
history in an accessible way, from the Neolitihic era until the Middle Bronze Age. 

Drawing on an extensive range of textual, artistic, and archaeological data, 
Warfare in the Ancient Near East to 1600 BC offers a detailed analysis of the military 
technology, ideology, and practices of Near Eastern warfare, focusing on key 
topics including: recruitment and training of the soldiers; the logistics and weap- 
onry of warfare, with emphasis on the shift from stone to metal weapons; the role 
played by magic; narratives of combat and artistic representations of battle; the 
origins and development of the chariot as a mode of military transportation; for- 
tifications and siegecraft; and developments in naval warfare. Hamblin pays parti- 
cular attention to the earliest-known examples of holy war ideology in 
Mesopotamia and Egypt, and argues that this era laid the foundation for later Near 
Eastern concepts of holy war, and that such understandings remain of vital sig- 
nificance in the world today. 

Illustrated throughout, including maps of the region, this book is essential for 
experts and non-specialists alike. 

William J. Hamblin is Associate Professor of History at Brigham Young 
University, specializing in Near Eastern and military history. He is co-author of 
World History to 1648 (1993). 

Warfare and History 

General Editor 

Jeremy Black 

Professor of History, University of Exeter 

I '.'tin in the Age of Total War 
|olm Buckley 

\ nines of the Caliphs 
: \,',n-iy in the liarly Islamic State 
I hir.ii Kennedy 

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Triumph, Trngedy and Failurt 
jtmet Scott Wheeler 

I'll IWi 

> |,i.. i Hi- ./in m 
/./.... II ,ii 

Medieval Naval Warfare, 1 000-1 500 
Susan Rose 

Modern Chinese Warfare, 1795-1989 
Bruce A. Elleman 

Modern Insurgencies and Counter-insurgencies 

Guerrillas and their Opponents since 1 750 

Ian F. W. Beckett 

Mughal Warfare 

Imperial Frontiers and Highroads to Empire 


Jos Gommans 

Naval Warfare, 1815-1914 
Lawrence Sondhaus 

Ottoman Warfare, 1500-1700 
Rhoads Murphey 

The Peloponnesian War 
A military study 
J. F. Lazenby 

Samurai, Warfare and the State in Early 
Medieval japan 
Karl F. Friday 

Seapower and Naval Warfare, 1650-1830 
Richard Harding 

The Soviet Military Experience 
Roger R. Reese 

I Ictiidiu 
Spencer ( '. ' I'm kci 

The \\\ti for Independence ami the Transformation 

<>/ American Society 

1 l.uiv M. W.ird 

tt 'in and tin- Stair in luirly Modi in I urojn 

Spain, the I httch Repnhlit and S"»i ,/< n ( r 

/ , ,,,l military S/.in , / <"<» t(*t>i) 


II gffim and 

I v - /.//, 

Warfare and Society in Europe, 1898 to the Present 
Michael S. Neiberg 

Warfare at Sea, 1500-1650 
Jan Glete 

Warfare in Atlantic Africa, 1500-1800 

Maritime Conflicts and the Transformation of 


John K. Thornton 

I Varfare, State and Society in the Byzantine World, 


John Haldon 

War in the Early Modern World, 


edited by Jeremy Black 

Wars of Imperial Conquest in Africa, 1830-1914 
Bruce Vandervort 

Western Warfare in the Age of the Crusades, 


John France 

War and Society in Imperial Rome, 
31 BC-AD 284 
Brian Campbell 

Warfare and Society in the Barbarian West 
Guy Halsall 

War in the Modem World since 1815 
Jeremy Black, editor 

World War Two 

A Military History 

Jeremy Black 

War, Politics and Society in Early Modern China, 
Peter Lorge 

Warfare in the Ancient Near East, to 1 600 BC 

Holy Warriors at the Dawn of History 

William J. Hamblin 

The Wars of the French Revolution and Napoleon, 


Owen Connelly 

Indian Wars of Canada, Mexico and the 

United States, 1812-1900 

Bruce Vandervort 

Warfare in the Ancient Near East 
to 1600 BC 

Holy Warriors at the Dawn of History 

William J. Hamblin 

13 Routledge 

g^^ Taylor ft*. Francis Croup 

First published 2006 

by Routledge 

2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon, OX14 4RN 

Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada 

by Koutledge 

270 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016 

Reprinted 2007 

Houtkslge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business 

| 'mi if, William J. Hamblin 

Typeset in Bembo by Taylor & Francis Books 

I'm in i'tl and bound in Great Britain by The Cromwell Press, Trowbridge, Wiltshire 

All i li'Jns reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilized 
in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter 
invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or 
retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. 

tititisli Library Cataloguing in Publication Data 

A i .it.ilojMir record for this book is available from the British Tibrary 

Library of (Congress (lataloging-in-Publication Data 

Warfare in l he ancient Near East to c. 1600 BC / [edited by] William j. Hamblin. 
p. c in. (Warfare and history) 
liu hides bibliographical references and index. 

1. Military art and science— Middle East— History. 2. Middle East— History, 
Military To 1500. I. Hamblin, William James. II. Series. 

For Loree, Ken, Karen and Alex 
- of course 

For Scott Nelson: the Better Man 

And for Blake Donnek, 
who dared to dream of a world without war 

U31.W37 2005 

35 5 ' . ( )( )93 9 '4090 1 3— dc22 


[SBNIO: 0-415-25589-9 (pbk) 
ISBN 10: 0-415-25588-0 (hbk) 

ISBN 13: 978-0-415-25589-9 (pbk) 
ISBN 13: 978-0-415-25588-2 (hbk) 

Mightiest of the mighty, hero in battle, let me sing his song!" 
(iilgamesh and the Bull of Heaven, Sumer, c. 2000 BCE (EOG 169) 


JJsi of Illustrations xiii 

Preface xiv 

List of abbreviations xv 

Introduction 1 

! rhe Neolithic Age and the origin of warfare {to c. 3000} 14 

' Early Dynastic Mesopotamia {3500-2334} 35 

\ rhe Akkadian empire {2334-2190} 73 

1 rhe Neo-Sumerian period {2190-2004} 102 

i War carts and chariots 129 

f> Middle Bronze Mesopotamia {c. 2000-1600} 154 

Warfare in the age of Mari 185 

Mcsopotamian sicgccraft 215 

l ) Syria and Lebanon 237 

In ( '.in, i, in 269 

II Anatolia 285 

I'.- I hnastu and lurly Dynastic Egypt {3500-2687} 308 

I ! - t >U kin-Jon, |-j.vpi | »fiK7 2181 ! 328 

I \ \\ .Hi.. i. tint mi- [In ( >K1 Kiiiiulmn 353 

! 5 First Intermediate Period Egypt {2190-2061 } 

16 Middle Kingdom Egypt {2061-1786} 

17 The military system of the Middle Kingdom 

1 8 Early Second Intermediate Period Egypt { 1 786-1 667} 










I In "Stele of the Vultures" 
I u!v and Middle Bronze Age weapons 
1 be "Victory Stele" of Naram-Sin 
I n K and Middle Bronze Age war-carts and chariots 
\u hery and siege techniques 

K. imparts of Middle Bronze Age Ebla, Syria {c. 2000-1800} 
Middle Bronze Age gate at Tel Dan, Israel {c. 2000-1800} 
I In "Narmer Palette" at Hierakonpolis 
Mud brick city walls at El-Kab, Egypt {c. 1600-1000} 
Mit Kile Kingdom Egyptian fortifications at Buhen, Sudan 
[< . 2000-1800} 

\'h go and battle scene, Tomb of Antef 
Naval combat scene, Tomb of Antef 






I he Near East 

lironze Age Mesopotamia and Syria 

llronzc Age Anatolia 

1 ' i < > ii / < • Age I Igypt and Nubia 





< limnology of the Ancient Near East, based on tool making 
I In tn.ijoi periods of Early Mesopotamian history 
\i in u n.ii v of' enemy casualties from Rimush's campaigns 
i'.iv \i.rles associated with military ranks 

implified archaeological chronology of Syria 
Simplified ,m haeological chronology of Canaan 
Simplified archaeological chronology of Anatolia 
( htonologua! periodization for Egypt 
i \jm s ni uoops .Hid weapons found at Beni Hasan tombs 
itive i limnology of" the Second Intermediate Period 
ni.iii/rd ,md simplified < li.irl of the dynastic divisions of 
I i dmmi' tin- Sc.onti Intermediate Period, 1786 1569 







While working on this book over the past few years, my motto, along with 
Shakespeare's Prospero, has necessarily been: "Me, poor man, my library was 
dukedom large enough" (Tempest, I, ii, 126). As anyone who has written a book 
can attest, it is both an exhilarating and an exasperating experience. It is also, 
paradoxically, a most lonely endeavor that can only be accomplished with the 
assistance of many friends and colleagues. 

It is my pleasure to thank numerous people and institutions for their generous 
assistance in writing this book. The History Department and the College of 
Family Home and Social Sciences at Brigham Young University (BYU) provided 
a much-needed sabbatical and research funds to complete this book. The Institute 
for the Preservation of Ancient and Religious Texts at BYU provided resources 
for released time from teaching and for hiring a research assistant. Likewise BYU's 
General Education and Honors Program, Middle East Studies Program, and 
Kennedy Center for International Studies, were all liberal with resources for travel 
and research. Jake Olmstead provided helpful research assistance. John Gee, Wil- 
liam "Bill" Gay Associate Research Professor of Egyptology at The Institute for 
the Preservation of Ancient and Religious Texts, BYU, was very accommodating 
with his advice on matters Egyptological. Michael Lyon, artist and scholar, pro- 
duced the illustrations. Prof. Dr. Eric Gubel, Senior Keeper of Antiquities in 
Royal Museums of Art & History in Brussels, kindly provided a digital photo- 
graph of one of the cylinder seals from that collection. 

On a more personal level, I would like to thank my wife's family for admirable 
restraint in limiting the number and frequency of questions to my wife concerning 
why her errant husband was not attending certain mandatory family functions. My 
father gave a fine rendition of Pope Julius to my less than adequate Michelangelo; 
it is a matter of no little irritation that, while undergoing chemotherapy no less, he 
finished two books in the time it took me to finish this one. I am more than 
thrilled that his personal "al-Qaeda cells" have been defeated, finally, I mnsl 
thank my wife and children for their unending patience .md support. To them I 
(.in only say: I have at las! emerged from the dungeon 

\\ till mi | 1 l.imhlui 

I'iovo, Utah. . 1(lil ' 






• 1 I 

M \1K 



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M The following reference provides a map 

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number (§) rather than page 
MAS B. Foster, "Management and Administration in the Sargonic Period", 

in M. Liverani (ed.), Akkad: The First World Empire: Structure, Ideology, 

Traditions (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1993), 25-39 
MB Whitney Davis, Masking the Blow: The Scene of Representation in Late 

Prehistoric Egyptian Art (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992) 
MBA Yohanan Aharoni and Michael Avi-Yonah, Macmillan Bible Atlas, 2nd 

edn (New York: Macmillan, 1977), cited by map number (§) rather 

than page 
MC Piotr Michalowski, "The Royal Correspondence of Ur", PhD Dis- 

sertation, Yale University, 1 978 
ME Timothy Potts, Mesopotamia and the East: An Archaeological and Historical 

Study of Foreign Relations, c. 3400-2000 BC (Oxford: Oxford University 

Committee for Archaeology, 1994) 
MFM Stephanie Dalley, Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, the Flood, Gilgamesh, 

and Others, 2nd edn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000) 
MHT Trevor R. Bryce, The Major Historical Texts of Early Hittite History 

(Brisbane: University of Queensland, 1983) 
MK S. Dalley, Mari and Karana: Two Old Babylonian Cities (London and 

New York: Longman, 1984) 
MKT H. E. Wmlock, The Rise and Fall of the Middle Kingdom in Thebes (New 

York: Macmillan, 1947) 
MM Jack Sasson, The Military Establishments at Mari (Rome: Pontifical Bib- 

lical Institute, 1969) 
MW Graham Philip, Metal Weapons of the Early and Middle Bronze Ages in 

Syria- Palestine, 2 vols (Oxford: BAR International Series, 1989) 
NEA G. Gaballa, Narrative in Egyptian Art (Mainz Am Rhein: Verlag Philipp 

Von Zabem, 1W>) 
( >A< Mogens Trolle Larson, 11 w Old Assyrian City-State and its Colonies 

(Copenhagen: Akademisk Forlag, 1 ( )76) 
OBI I A Robert M. Whiting, |i\. Old Babylonian Letters from Tell Asmar, Assyr- 

lologu al Sunlies, No \?. (( "Imago: ( )riental Institute of Chicago, 1 ( >87) 
















Stephanie Dalley, The Old Babylonian Tablets from Tell Al Rimah (London: 
British School of Archaeology in Iraq, 1976), cited by text number (§) 
rather than page 

Ian Shaw (ed.), The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt (Oxford: Oxford 
University Press, 2000) 

Arthur Ferrill, The Origins of IVar: from the Stone Age to Alexander the 
Great (London: Thames and Hudson, 1985) 

Jak Yakar, Prehistoric Anatolia; The Neolithic Transformation and the Early 
Chalcolithic Period (Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University, 1991) 
D. Potts, The Archaeology of Elam (Cambridge: Cambridge University 
Press, 1999) 

I. E. S. Edwards, The Pyramids of Egypt, 5th edn (Harmondsworth: 
Penguin, 1993) 

Yuhong, Wu, A Political History of Eshnunna, Mari and Assyria during the 
Early Old Babylonian Period (From the end ofUr III to the death of Shamshi- 
Adad) (Changchun: Institute of History of Ancient Civilizations, 
Northeast Normal University, 1994) 

Jerrold S. Cooper, Presargonic Inscriptions (New Haven: The American 
Oriental Society, 1986) 

Toby A. H. Wilkinson (editor and translator), Royal Annals of Ancient 
Egypt: the Palermo Stone and its Associated Fragments (London: Kegan Paul 
International, 2000) 

Emma Swan Hall, Pharaoh Smites his Enemies (Munich: Deutscher 
Kunstverlag, 1986) 

R. O. Faulkner, The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts (Oxford: Clarendon 
Press, 1969), cited by "utterance" rather than page 
Douglas Frayne, Royal Inscriptions of Mesopotamia, Early Periods, Vol. 1: 
Pre-Sargonic Period (to 2334 B.C.) (Toronto: University of Toronto 
Press, 2004) 

Douglas Frayne, Royal Inscriptions of Mesopotamia, Early Periods, Vol. 2: 
Sargonic and Guitian Period (2334—2113 B.C.) (Toronto: University of 
Toronto Press, 1993) 

Dietz Otto Edzard, Royal Inscriptions of Mesopotamia, Early Periods, Vol. 
3/1: Gudea and His Dynasty (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997) 
Douglas Frayne, Royal Inscriptions of Mesopotamia, Early Periods, Vol 3/2: 
Ur III Period (2112-2004 B.C.) (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 

Douglas Frayne, Royal Inscriptions of Mesopotamia, Early Periods, Vol. 4: 
Old Babylonian Period (2003—1595 B.C.) 2 vols, Royal Inscriptions of 
Mesopotamia, Babylonian Period (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 

A. Kirk Grayson, Royal Inscriptions of Mesopotamia, Assyrian Periods, Vol 
I: Assyrian Rulers of the Third and Second Millennia BC (to 11 / ? UC) 
(Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987) 


i' \3 

r 1 1 

r I A 



st ;ae 




i i;m 



I'Sl I 

Ronald J. Leprohon, "The Reign of Amenemhet III", PhD dissertation 
(University of Toronto, 1980) 

Repertoire Geographique des Textes Cuneiformes, in Beihefte zum Tubinger 
Atlas des Vorderen Orients. Reihe B, Geisteswissenschaften, 7 (Wiesbaden: 
Dr. Ludwig Reichert, 1977 ff ) 

Jerrold S. Cooper, Reconstructing History from Ancient Inscriptions: 
the Lagash-Umma Border Conflict (JVlalibu, CA: Undena Publications, 

Erich Ebeling (ed.), Reallexikon der Assyriologie (Berlin: W. de Gruyter, 

Richard L. Zettler and Lee Home (eds), Treasures from the Royal Tombs 
of Ur (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Museum, 1998), cited 
by page, or by item number (§) 

Helga Seeden, The Standing Armed Figurines in the Levant (Munich: 
Beck'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1980), cited by page, plate number 
(§), or figure number (#) 

P. Smither, "The Semna Dispatches", Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, 31 
(1945) pp. 3-10; cited by dispatch number (§) rather than page 
Andre Parrot, Sumer: the Dawn of Art (New York: Golden Press, 

Wolfgang Decker, Sports and Games of Ancient Egypt (New Haven: Yale 
University Press, 1987) 

Horst Klengel, Syria, 3000-300 BC: A Handbook of Political History 
(Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1992) 

Claude Obsomer, Sesostris Ier: Etude chronologique et historique de regne 
(Brussells: Connaissance de l'Egypte Ancienne, 1995) 
K. Ryholt, The Political Situation in Egypt during the Second Intermediate 
Period, c. 1800-1550 BC (Copenhagen: Carsten Niebuhr Institute of 
Near Eastern Studies, 1997) 

Bjorn Landstrom, Ships of the Pharaohs: 4000 Years of Egyptian Ship- 
building (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1970) 

H. E. Winlock, The Slain Soldiers of Neb-hepet-Re Mentu-hotpe (New 
York: Metropolitan Museum of Art Egyptian Expedition, 1945) 
Alan R. Schulman, "Siege Warfare in Pharaonic Egypt", Natural His- 
tory: The Journal of the American Museum of Natural History, 73/3 (March 
1964): 13-21 

Francesco Tiradriti (ed.), The Treasures of the Egyptian Museum (Cairo: 
American University in Cairo Press, 1999) 

Treasures of the Holy Land: Ancient Art from the Israel Museum (New York: 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1986) 

R. M. Parkinson (translator), The Tale of Sinuhe and Other Ancient Egyptian 
Poems. l*W0 1 640 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997) 
Jacob Klein, Three Slutlgi Hymns: Sumerian Royal Hymns Glorifying King 
Shulgi (»/ ( ) (K. mi. it Cm, Israel: 15. ir Ilan University Press, 1981) 









Benjamin R. Foster, Umma in the Sargonic Period, Memoirs of the Con- 
necticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, vol. 20, April 1982 (Hamden, 
CN: Archon Books, 1982) 

R. B. Parkinson, Voices from Ancient Egypt: an Anthology of Middle King- 
dom Writings (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991) 
Erkki Salonen, Die Wajfen der Alten Mesopotamier (Helsinki: Studia 
Orientalia, 1965) 

Lawrence H. Keeley, War Before Civilization: The Myth of the Peaceful 
Savage (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996) 

Gemot Wilhelm, The Hurrians (Warminster, Wilts.: Aris & Phillips, 

Albert Glock, Warfare in Mari and Early Israel (PhD Dissertation, Uni- 
versity of Michigan, 1968) 

M. Littauer and J. Crouwel, Wheeled Vehicles and Ridden Animals in the 
Ancient Near East (Leiden: Brill, 1979), cited by page, and by figure 
number (§) 
"Year of king" 


I or many historians, military history begins with the classical Greeks. Warfare in 
World History, for example, starts with the battle of Thermopylae {480 BCE}. 1 
The very useful Reader's Guide to Military History has one entry on ancient Egypt 
and another on the ancient Near East, but eight on the classical Greeks and 
.mother eleven on the Romans. 2 The Art of War in World History devotes eleven of 
lis 1069 pages to warfare before the Greeks. 3 Likewise, the World History of Warfare 
devotes only twenty-nine pages to the pre-Greek and Persian Near East. 4 This 
common misconception of military history beginning at Greece is off by a mere 
.2500 years. In purely chronological terms, half of all recorded military history 
occurred before the battle of Marathon {490 BCE}. 

On the other hand, there is certainly some justification for the Hellenocentric 
.ipproach to early military history, largely because the surviving source material for 
( ireek military history alone probably exceeds the entire corpus of surviving 
militarily significant sources from the ancient Near East from 3000-500 BCE. 
lurthermore, the sources for ancient Near Eastern military history are written in a 
number of obscure and difficult languages which are seldom studied by military his- 
torians. All these languages still present numerous philological difficulties and uncer- 
i, unties. Compounding these problems, we find that many of the sources are laconic, 
tendentious, fragmentary, and contextually obscure. Furthermore, many modern 
scholarly studies on ancient Near Eastern military matters are published in specialist 
journals of limited accessibility, often burdened by nearly impenetrable technical 
jargon and abbreviations and a bewildering array of unpronounceable transcriptions 
of ancient words. Despite these problems, however, there is a vast vista of ancient 
Near Eastern military history which remains essentially terra incognita to many 
military historians. The goal of this study is to synthesize our current knowledge of 
rarly ancient Near Eastern military history in a form that is accessible to the broader 
range of military historians who do not specialize in ancient Near Eastern studies. 

Those general surveys of military history which deal with the ancient Near East 
to some degree frequently do so by giving a brief passing nod to Thutmose III 
! 1504 1452 BCE} at Megiddo, Ramesses II {1304-1237 BCE} and the Hittites 
,u K.ulesh, the Assyrian Empire (930-612 BCE}, and perhaps the Bible, before 
turning to the Creeks. Important as these events and periods are, they are but a 
small portion ol the vast array of ancient Near Pastern military history, and the 


repeated emphasis on these same events necessarily distorts the overall under- 
standing of warfare in the ancient Near East. Indeed, this present study concludes 
at the end of the Middle Bronze Age {c. 1600 BCE}, before the battles of 
Megiddo {1482 BCE} or Kadesh {1274 BCE} took place. Even within this lim- 
ited timeframe I found myself hard-pressed to selectively synthesize the available 
source materials into the 544 pages of this book. 

Geographically this study encompasses the modern countries of Turkey (Ana- 
tolia), Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq (Mesopotamia), wes- 
tern Iran, and the modern states of the Arabian Peninsula. However, due to the 
nature of the surviving sources, most of the emphasis will be on Mesopotamia and 
Egypt. Chronologically, this study ranges from the origins of warfare to the end of 
the Middle Bronze Age around 1600 BCE; again because of the nature of the 
surviving sources, the focus will be on the period from roughly 3000 to 1600 
BCE. The selection of the year 1600 for ending this study is based on three con- 
siderations. First, major social and political transformations occurred around this 
time, as reflected in material culture; scholars use these transformations as the cri- 
teria for the transition from the Middle to the Late Bronze Ages. Second, this 
period of transformation is marked politically by the fall of Babylon to the Hittites 
] 1595 BCE} and the beginning of the rise of New Kingdom Egypt in Thebes 
! 1 569 BCE}. Finally, the sixteenth century BCE witnessed the final emergence of 
folly developed chariot warfare, creating the "chariot age", which would dom- 
ii i.i i e Near Eastern military history for the next half millennium or more (which I 
hope to examine in a future study). I will present both a narrative of military his- 
tory and an examination of military systems and ideologies of different kingdoms 
Uld cultures in the ancient Near East during this period 

Chronological issues 

Chronological notation conventions 

I Jnless other wise noted, all dates are BCE (Before the Current Era = BC) or, in 
Other words, before the traditional year of the birth of Christ. I have adopted the 
l onvention of placing dates within pointed brackets { }, with parentheses ( ) used 
to identify sources, and square brackets [ ] marking editorial insertions into quotations 
Ol sources, to help contextualize and clarify the intent of the source. A number 
followed by a "C" refers to a century: hence {25C} means the twenty-fifth cen- 
tuiv liCi;. A number preceded by a "Y" refers to a regnal year: thus {Y 15} refers to 
die fifteenth year of the reign of the king under discussion. Regnal years are generally 
■list) translated into the equivalent years of our current calendar when known. 

Sources for chronology 6 

^ I"' 1 ' '•« liolars ul modem military history can sometimes h mptu.ilK dehm mili 
111 ' 1l,v '' ii [t ' the horn ami even minute, Iiim. »i i m . ,, [ ils| 


often debate about which century a ruler lived in. The systems of scholarly peri- 
odization of the ancient Near East present the non-specialist with a bewildering 
variety of names and periods which I have attempted to simplify and systematize. 
There are a number of different methods by which scholars attempt to discover 
chronological information for the ancient Near East. Each of these methods has its 
advantages and limitations; the most secure dates are based on a complementary 
combination of as many chronological methods as available. 7 

The overall goal of these methods is an attempt to establish absolute chronol- 
ogy, in which ancient events are correlated to precise years in our modern calen- 
dar. For much of the ancient period, in most of the regions of the ancient Near 
East, dates for an absolute chronology are unfortunately not available with cer- 
tainty; historians must therefore rely on other forms of periodization based on 
estimates derived from a combination of other dating techniques. These include: 

• Synchronism, which searches for the correlation of chronologically significant 
events in one text with another, or with astronomically datable events. 

• Dendrochronology, the study of the patterns of tree rings for certain species of 
trees which vary according to differing climatic conditions for each year, 
allowing the year a tree was chopped down to be determined. 

• Radiometric dating, which provides approximate dates derived from measur- 
ing the decay of radiological elements (such as Carbon 14) found in all organic 

• Relative or stratigraphic dating, based on analysing the relative position of an 
artifact in relation to other artifacts found at a given site (EA 5:82—8). 

• Typological dating, comparing form, pattern, color, material, and construc- 
tion techniques of the remains of material culture (EA 450—3). This type of 
dating is generally associated with pottery typologies, but weapon typologies 
are also very important for military history. 

By painstakingly fitting together thousands of minute technical chronological 
data from these and other forms of dating, archaeologists have been able to identify 
the broad chronological patterns of ancient Near Eastern history, and establish an 
absolute chronology for much of the history of Mesopotamia and Egypt. Unfor- 
tunately, a number of ambiguities and uncertainties in the data permit several dif- 
ferent overall ways of interpreting the chronological information, and hence 
different chronologies. 

For the most part this study will not deal with technical questions of chronol- 
ogy. Instead, I will accept the "Middle Chronology", as used in the standard 
reference works such as The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt (EAE), The Oxford 
Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East (EA), and Civilizations of the Ancient Near 
East (CANE). 8 Specific chronological charts for regional periodization will be 
provided for each chapter. I should emphasize, however, that there is ultimate 
uncertainty in much of the chronological information from the early ancient Near 
Fast, (ienerally speaking, the older the date the more uncertain the chronology. 


While all dates given here are more or less problematic, I will use the abbreviation 
"c." (for the Latin circa, or "approximately") when giving chronological informa- 
tion that is especially dubious. Even though the dates given are often mere guesses, 
I have chosen to use dubious dates rather than no dates at all, in order to help the 
reader keep at least a relative sense of chronological periodization and develop- 
ment through time. We must remember, however, that these dates are sometimes 
little more than chronological pegs on which mentally to hang our information, 
rather than temporal absolutes. 


There are a number of additional different ways scholars categorize ancient 
chronological information besides trying to give a date in our modern calendar. 
The first is the appearance of writing, which alone allows us to give precise dates 
and specific names to people, places and events. Periods before writing are pre- 
historic, while societies with surviving written source materials are historic. The 
transition point between prehistoric and historic is different for each region of the 
world. Some regions of the world — Australia for example — remained prehistoric 
imiil the eighteenth century CE. In Egypt, on the other hand, the first evidence of 
writing is about 3000 BCE; thus, before 3000 is prehistoric, while after 3000 is 
historic. However, it is generally the case that the first evidence of writing is often 
SO sparse and laconic that it provides the historian with very minimal informa- 
tiOE — -sometimes nothing more than the name of a king. We thus often speak of a 
protohistoric period, where the number of written texts is so limited that it provides 
us with only fragmentary historical knowledge. 

A second method of periodization is based on archaeological study of the pri- 
mary material used for tool making: stone, copper, bronze, or iron. Broadly 
speaking, archaeologists speak of three great "ages" in the ancient Near East: Stone 
Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age (EA 4:267-73). The Stone Age itself is divided 
into subperiods: Paleolithic (Old Stone Age), Epipaleolithic (Late Old Stone Age) 9 
and Neolithic (New Stone Age). In addition, there is a transitional period from 
the use of stone to the use of metal, in which the first signs of working copper 
appear; this period is known as the Chacolithic ("Copper-Stone" Age), which 
generally corresponds with late Neolithic in most regions of the ancient Near East. 
This system of periodization by tool manufacturing has its own particular set of 
problems. First, based on the tools alone, no absolute chronology can be deter- 
mined; assigning specific years in the modern calendar to each "age" results from 
syn< 1 iron isms (discoveries of chronological matches or overlaps) with historical 
texts, radiometric dating, and archaeological stratigraphy. Second, each of these 
an hacological ages begins at a different absolute date in different regions of the 
Nt mi [-last. Thus, the Bronze Age in Egypt begins later than the Bronze Age in 
Mesopotamia. Some isolated regions of the world, such as parts of New ( luinea or 
I he Amazon, lot example, were still in some ways in the "Stone Aee" until the 
e.nK twentieth eenturv. Third, the dividing line lm tin ■ periods generally 


represents centuries of transition. Stone or bronze tools often remained in wide- 
spread simultaneous use for centuries after their "ages", according to the archae- 
ologists' periodization, technically ended. From the military history perspective, 
i his system is somewhat unsatisfactory. In Egypt, for example, flint arrow heads 
were still in widespread use during the Middle Kingdom, even though Egypt was 
technically in the Middle Bronze Age by that time. It must be remembered that 
i he transition between tool ages is based on when the technology first appears, not 
on when it is universally adopted. For the ancient Near East, the following is a 
very rough periodization by tools (based on EA 4:269-70), with the caveat that 
each region has its own specific chronology with different periods of transitions. 
I ; gypt, in particular, generally entered these phases several centuries later than the 
i est of the Near East. Table A shows a chronology of the Ancient Near East, based 
on the materials used for tool making. 

Table A Chronology of the Ancient Near East, based on tool making 

1 .pipaleolithic 

Epipaleolithic (Mesolithic) 

c. 18,000-8500 

N eolithic 

Pre-Pottery Neolithic 

c. 8500-6000 

Pottery Neolithic 

c. 6000-4500 

( halcolithic 


c. 4500-3300 


Early Bronze 

c. 3300-2000 

Middle Bronze 

c. 2000-1600 

Late Bronze 

c. 1600-1200 


Iron Age I 

c. 1200-925 

Archaeologists also classify chronological periods based on a matrix of material 
. nlture discovered at, and named after, specific archaeological sites where a parti- 
cular combination of material culture was first discovered. Thus we find in Egypt a 
discussion of the Faiyum culture, the Moerian period, as well as the Maadi, 
[>adarian, Naqada or Gerzean; all of these, however, are simply specific regional 
subphases of the Neolithic period in Egypt. These periods of material culture are 
often subdivided into phases, which are generally given Roman numerals. In order 
to minimize confusion and complexity, throughout this study I will mainly use the 
dynastic and tool-based methods of periodization since these are the most relevant 
to military history. I will generally convert pottery-based subphases of material 
culture into their dynastic or tool-typology equivalents. At the beginning of each 
t hapter I will provide a chart which attempts to correlate all these different forms 
of periodization for the region under consideration. 

Historical geography and ethnography 

I'he historical geography and ethnography of the ancient Near East is also a 
complicated subject. One problem is that the modern location for most place 

ii. lines mentioned in an< ient texts is not ki 

for certain. Even capitals of major 


empires, like Akkad of the Akkadians and Washukanni of Mitanni, have not been 
identified with certainty. The same place might be called different names in dif- 
ferent languages; place-names can also change with time. The kingdom of 
Mitanni, for example, was anciently called Mitanni, Maitta, Hurri, Khanigalbat, 
Khabigalbat, Naharina and Nahrima (DANE 200). Furthermore, different scholars 
often translate a single ancient term differently; likewise the English, German, 
French, or Italian usages are sometimes quite distinct. All of this is further com- 
plicated by the fact that many ancient sites are called by their modern Arabic 
names, even after the ancient name has been discovered. Thus, the ancient Ebla is 
also frequently called by its modern Arabic name Tell Mardikh. For the non-spe- 
cialist, this can create immense confusion. As a general rule I will select one stan- 
dardized modern spelling for ancient place names, and consistently use it 
throughout this study. Alternate place-names will generally be given in parentheses 
or in notes; all alternate spellings in quotations and translations will be standar- 
dized. Thus, for example, I will consistently use the modern standard English 
spelling for the city of Aleppo, rather than Yamkhad (ancient Near Eastern name), 
lieroea (Hellenistic name) or Halab (Arabic name). 

Different ancient peoples at different times also defined themselves and others 
differently, and such ethnonyms (names of peoples) could change through time. 
Many different ethnic groups inhabited the same region simultaneously, with some 
groups disappearing and others appearing in different periods. Migration was 
common in the ancient Near East, causing frequent changes in ethnography, 
furthermore, what groups called themselves was often different from what for- 
eigners called them. For clarity for the non-specialist, I have decided to use a 
simplified, standardized, and consistent — though necessarily somewhat arbitrary — 
system for describing ancient ethnography. Broadly speaking, I will use the following 
tCJ ms for peoples living in the following modern regions: 


t amaanite 

! J >■■ m 



I iaiiutc 

i ; ;i n 

Ancient people of modern Turkey 

Ancient maritime people of the Levant coast of modern Syria, 

Lebanon, and northern Israel 

Land-based peoples of modern Syria and Lebanon 

Peoples of modern Israel, Palestine, and Jordan 

Peoples of the Nile Valley below Aswan (First Cataract) 

Peoples of the deserts to the west of the Nile 

Peoples south of Aswan in northern modern Sudan 

All ancient peoples living in the Tigris and Euphrates river 

valleys in modern Iraq and southeast Syria. Mesopotamians 

included a number of different ethnic and linguistic groups 

such as Sumerians, Akkadians, Assyrians, and Babylonians, 

who will be introduced in the appropriate chapters. 

Peoples of" south-western Iran 

Mountain pastoral herders m tin u-.m Mountains of Wes 

tern Iran and south rastci u I in I ■ \ 





Nomad Desert and steppe pastoral herders. It should be emphasized 

that Early Bronze nomads were generally not horse and camel 
riders. They usually migrated and fought on foot. By the 
Middle Bronze Age some nomads were beginning to ride 
equids and camels, but there is no evidence of large bodies of 
cavalry or camelry used by ancient nomads in battle. 

Using this method is unsatisfactory in many ways. It is rather like calling 
ancient Gauls or Franks by the modern term French; or, more drastically, like 
referring to the Iroquois as New Yorkers. While recognizing the problems with 
this approach, my goal is to make ancient ethnography and geography more 
accessible to modern readers. When introducing new ethnonyms I will always try 
to place them in their proper geographical and chronological setting and give 
variant spellings. Thus, when, introducing the Hittites and Luwians, I will say they 
are "Anatolian" peoples, even though the land the Hittites and Luwians inhabited 
was not called Anatolia until nearly a thousand years after the age of the Hittite 


13efore roughly 1820 CE, all of our knowledge of the ancient Near East was found 
in the Bible and in classical Greek and Latin sources. During the nineteenth cen- 
tury the decipherment of ancient Egyptian {1822-1843 CE} and the cuneiform 
writing systems {1802-1852 CE}, along with the rapid development of the dis- 
cipline of professional archaeology, transformed our knowledge of the ancient 
Near East. Indeed, the rediscovery of the lost history of the ancient Near East 
through archaeology and the philological decipherment of dead languages is one 
of the great intellectual sagas of mankind. 10 Nearly all of the sources for ancient 
Near East history used in this book have been discovered through archaeology in 
the past two centuries. From these two centuries of archaeological effort we have 
foui types of source materials available for the study of warfare in the ancient Near 

I ,r,l: 

I texts, in a wide range of genres including royal inscriptions, year names, 
autobiographies, hymns, letters, administrative texts, myths, epics, and other 

martial artwork: artistic representations of arms and combat, generally 
patronized by kings for royal propaganda and aggrandizement, or as religious 
veneration and thanksgiving to the gods; 

3 fortifications; 

■\ weapons and other military-related artifacts. 

I .H li of these categories of evidence is complementary, offering different per- 
spectives on ancient warfare, but each also has special methodological problems 

relating to their interpretation. Some of the technical issues relating to specific 
artifacts, art, or texts will be introduced throughout this study. Here some general 
methodological considerations will be discussed. 

Textual sources 

The textual sources of ancient Near Eastern military history before 1600 are lar- 
gely in three primary languages: Sumerian, Akkadian (including Old Assyrian and 
Old Babylonian dialects), and Egyptian. Hittite texts become crucial for Anatolia 
and Syria in the eighteenth and seventeenth centuries. A large archive of admin- 
istrative and economic texts also exists in Eblaite, which are of indirect interest to 
the military historian. 11 There are a number of other ancient Near Eastern lan- 
guages which are poorly attested or poorly understood, or for which we only have 
a body of names mentioned in texts written in other languages. These include 
lilamite, Hurrian, Amorite, Byblos Syllabic, and Old Canaanite; these languages 
have few significant texts for military history. 12 The linguistic Babel of the ancient 
Near East is further compounded by the fact that many crucial secondary studies 
are in German, French, and Italian. 

Another problem in dealing with ancient Near Eastern sources is that there are 
a number of different ways to transliterate ancient words and names and to trans- 
l,i te technical military terms. Some of the translations I have cited use different 
transliteration systems. I have opted to follow the spelling and transliteration sys- 
ii'ins found in the Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt (EAE), the Oxford Encyclo- 
pedia of Archaeology in the Near East (EA) and the Dictionary of the Ancient Near East 
(1 )ANE). In order to make understanding easier for the non-specialist, I have 
t mdardized alternative spellings in sources which use different spelling and trans- 
I in ration systems. Thus, I use the spelling "Montuhotep" for the famous Middle 
Kingdom Egyptian rulers. If sources I quote use the alternative spellings Mentu- 
botep or Mentuhotpe, I have simply changed their spelling to conform to the EAE 
Item without comment. 

I ikewise, certain technical military terms can be translated in different ways by 
different translators. I have chosen to standardize many of these as well. For 
example, the Egyptian term imy-r can be translated in different ways according to 
( ontext. In texts relating to work crews it is perhaps best rendered as "overseer". 
Ina military context the translation of "commander" is probably more appro- 
pi i.ito. The problem is that different English words are sometimes used by different 
translators to translate this single Egyptian word. Thus, many of the translations I 
.in! quoting have been slightly modified by me for consistency of translation of 
technical military terminology. I generally give a transliteration of the original 
i (Miii I am translating when the concept is first introduced. I also make extensive 
use of square brackets | | to indicate my insertion of explanatory terms into a 
translation to provide background for the non-specialist reader. For example, 
when a (ext stairs "I am the lord of the land" (L 249), I might modify it to read "I 
|thr j'.od Shamash] am the lord ol the land |of Mari|" to clarify the context. 


I have made a consistent effort to give as many sources in translation as possible. 
Throughout this study I have given preference to citing English translations in 
accessible editions, though this has not always been possible. I have generally not 
given full bibliographic references to the standard editions for these sources in the 
original languages. Instead, I have included references to translations or commen- 
taries which include full bibliography on original language editions and studies. 
Those who wish to consult the original languages can find that information in the 
secondary literature and commentary on the translations I have cited. Such pri- 
mary studies are thus at most one bibliographic step away in my notes and refer- 
ences. I have also adopted a fairly extensive system of abbreviations to keep the size 
of the notes and parenthetical references to a minimum. These abbreviations can 
be found on pages xv-xxiv. 

Art and weapons 

Martial art and surviving weapons are a crucial source for the military history of 
the ancient Near East. Throughout my study I have made extensive use of such 
sources. Unfortunately, due to publication costs, it has been impossible to include 
illustrations of all the items I discuss in the text. Whenever I make reference to a 
particular work of martial art: or weapon I attempt to give references to recent and 
accessible publications which have reproduced that art, preferably in color. I will 
frequently give multiple references to reproductions of the same piece of art to 
help those attempting to track them down. I also try to get a full verbal description 
for those who cannot get access to the images, though such descriptions are 
invariably inadequate. 

The interpretation of martial art has its own set of methodological problems 
which I will discuss on occasion throughout the text. Three major problems are 
idealization, contextualization and anachronism. Idealization is where the martial 
scene is presented in an idealized or ritualized context — how things should have 
been, rather than how they really were. This is a nearly ubiquitous problem with 
iiu ient Near Eastern martial art, since nearly all of it was patronized by kings or 
nobles in order to glorify their martial achievements. The second problem, con- 
text ualization, is more subtle. It is attempting to determine what precisely the art is 
intended to depict. For example, the famous "Standard of Ur" includes scenes of 
Suincrian war-carts trampling defeated prostrate enemies (AFC 98—9; FA 84; AW 
1 : 132-3). The question is: does the art mean to depict war-carts in the midst of 
battle as they knock down enemies in combat, or does it show an after-battle tri- 
umph where the war-carts are paraded among the corpses of the dead who have 
already been killed by infantry? Such questions plague the interpretation of a great 
deal of ancient martial art. Finally, there is the question of anachronism; this is 
especially a problem in the context of ritual or mythological martial art. Here the 
essential problem is: do the weapons of the kings and gods represent the actual 
weapons used in battle at the time the art was made, or are they idealized mythical 
•> ipons which are no longer actually used in combat? Here tin example of 


( christian religious art depicting the archangel Michael with a sword is analogous. 
Such art in medieval churches may depict actual contemporary weapons, while a 
depiction of Michael in a twentieth-century church — still with his sword rather 
dian a machine gun — is clearly anachronistic. Likewise the British Royal Horse 
and Foot Guard continue to parade with archaic weapons and uniforms that are no 
longer used in actual combat. Four thousand years from now an archaeologist 
might be puzzled by what seems to be the continued use of sword- armed cavalry 
in the age of machine-guns, tanks and airplanes. 

What is war? 13 

I or anyone who has been in one, it seems silly to ask the question "what is war?". 
I )nly those who have experienced it can really know, and for them there can be 
little doubt as to what it really is. I have been fortunate to never have experienced 
war at first hand. I missed the Vietnam War by only a few months, with a draft 
number of 53. In one sense this should disqualify me from even discussing the 
topic. By what arrogance do I — who have never killed anyone or had anyone try 
to kill me — talk about warfare? But in reality, that is not my purpose here. My 
l unction is to collect, synthesize and present what the peoples of the ancient Near 
Bait had to say about warfare. My function is that of interlocutor, to serve as an 
intermediary for voices of ancient warriors — now dead for thousands of years — 
.md let them tell their stories. I am, of course, not so naive as to believe that I can 
i ell their stories without necessarily distorting their past through the prism of my 
I iwn ideas, beliefs, ignorance, and limitations. But, as much as possible, my goal is 
to present and elucidate the ancient texts, art, and artifacts related to war. 

For the purpose of this study, I am not overly concerned with formulating a 
precise definition of warfare; I am actually rather dubious that such a thing could 
DC done, or if it could that it would be very useful. Different definitions of warfare 
ITS often related to the fact that anthropologists, archaeologists, historians, and 
< idler scholars, although all dealing with the same phenomenon, each approach the 
1 aie by asking different types of questions and attempting to answer those ques- 
tions with different types of evidence and methodologies. Our concern, then, 
should not be defining "what is war?", but rather, "what type of model or defi- 
nition for warfare is most helpful in understanding the issues and questions related 
t<> the strengths and limitations of a given discipline, methodology or body of 
« vidence?" A universally useful definition of war is not only unattainable, but 
undesirable. Rather, such definitions should be viewed as more or less useful 
models for answering a specific range of questions with certain types of metho- 
dology. The overall issue of warfare should be explored with as many different 
perspectives and methodologies as possible. My goal here, however, is not to for- 
niul.iie .in idealized model describing what "tribal warfare", "chiefdom warfare", 
oi "state wailare" was supposedly like (FA 48—73). Rather, I will pay close atten- 
tion to the evidence we have describing what was actually done by specific indi- 
viduals a! \pc< itu times and plates. My particular approach here is thus historical, 



though I will gratefully incorporate the insights provided by anthropology, 
archaeology, and other disciplines as frequently as possible. 

It is odd that, in attempting to define warfare, so little attention is often paid to 
the indigenous concepts of warfare of the peoples being studied. Rather than trying 
to decide what we think warfare is, we should begin by asking ourselves what do 
they — the objects of our study — think warfare is. This is the important anthro- 
pological distinction between insider and outsider perspectives and forms of dis- 
course. It is more interesting to the historian to discover what the ancient peoples 
thought they were doing when they fought wars, than how modern scholars 
choose to describe or model what we think ancient peoples were doing. From the 
perspective of ancient Near Eastern peoples, war was conceived of as something 
altogether different from the activity often described as war by anthropologists, 
archaeologists, and historians. Feeding and equipping armies certainly occurred in 
the ancient Near East. Ancient soldiers marched and fought, and killed and died, 
just like modern soldiers. But for ancient Near Easterners that was not what was 
really important about war. For the ancients, war was the means by which the gods 
restored cosmic order through organized violence undertaken in their name by their divinely 
ordained kings. Or, to put it in Clauswitzian terms, "war is the continuation of 
(lii'iiie policy by other means". Whatever other modern models we might wish to 
apply to our study of ancient Near Eastern warfare to help illuminate certain 
questions, this definition must never be far from our mind. Throughout this study 
I will try to pay careful attention to the ideologies of warfare as conceived by 
ancient Near Easterners. 

To the modern mind this definition of war is almost incomprehensible, parti- 
cularly since in the wake of 9/11 — the destruction by terrorists of New York's 
World Trade Center in September 2001 — we tend to view warfare in the name of 
God as something abhorrent. In reality, however, throughout most of history and 
in most regions and cultures, there has been an intimate connection between 
religion and warfare, so much so that one could argue that ancient Near Eastern 
warfare was, in many ways, a form of religious worship and mass sacrifice. 

To the modern advocating the superiority of the veneration of a god of love 
and peace, the ancient would simply reply: "Why would I possibly want to worship 
;i god who cannot bring victory in battle?" To the outsider, four thousand years 
removed from this world- view, there is something unsatisfying and even disturbing 
in this perception of war. But only when we understand this key concept — that 
ancient Near Eastern war isn't really about maces and javelins and fortresses, but is 
a theomachy, a "war of the gods" — can we begin to understand ancient Near 
Eastern warfare. From their perspective it is not that humans cynically invoke the 
gods to justify fighting their human wars. It is that the gods use the humans to 
fight their divine wars. The cosmic war between good and evil, order and chaos, is 
ongoing; the gods simply recruit mortals to fight in that war. To understand the 
.m< lent Near Eastern view of war is to read of the acts of the gods in Homers Iliad 
not as literary metaphor but as an absolutely authentic description of the actual 
pic-sent v ol it'.il, (OMiiK K powci hi! beings using humans as then paw us 

I ' 


But, to return to the world-view of the twenty-first century: rather than 
i tempting a narrow definition of warfare and ignoring all war-like human beha- 

v lor that does not fit this definition, I will, instead, adopt a loose and broad defi- 
niion of war and war-like activities. In its most universal form, warfare is simply 

Organized violence between rival human groups. Under this broad definition, 
■ving wars" over drug territory in a ghetto would be a form of warfare. Thus, in 
mnc sections of this book I will take this perspective, considering fighting 

between small forager tribal groups as just as "authentic" a form of warfare as 
A orld War Two. But most of the attention of this book will be focused on state- 
.mctioned organized violence, directed at either destroying rival political entities, 
I forcing them into submission. Much of ancient Near Eastern warfare also had 
M important economic component, either to enrich the gods, king and warriors 
liirctly, through the acquisition of slaves, plunder, or tribute, or indirectly, by 
•ut rolling access to important rare resources such as tin, lapis lazuli, or cedarwood 

toi building timber. All of these factors — religion, politics, and economics — had 
mi overlapping and integrated impact on war-making in the ancient Near East; 
Ji hough we view them as causally separate, they would generally not be clearly 

.listinguished in the minds of ancient kings and warriors. 

I '• 


The Neolithic Age and the origin of warfare 

{to c. 3000} 

The origin of war 

The question of how, why, when, and where warfare began is a complicated one 
that is frequently burdened by many uncorroborated assumptions; proposed 
answers are sometimes blissfully unhindered by evidence. Even asking the very 
question begins to limit the possible range of answers, since asking "when did war 
begin" implies that there was a time when there was no war. In theory we must 
allow for the possibility that warfare has always been known among humans. 
Attempts to answer this question are also intimately connected to assumptions 
about human nature - are humans (or more specifically male humans) inherently 
violent? - which are beyond the purview of historians. 1 Asking these questions 
also implies that we know what war "really" is, and that we have sufficient evi- 
dence from the past to allow us to clearly identify its presence or absence. Both of 
these assumptions are dubious. As discussed in the introduction, I doubt an 
objective and universally applicable definition of war can be formulated. Rather, 
the nature of war has varied from culture to culture throughout history, with war 
meaning different things to different people at different times and places. 

What war meant to a Paleolithic forager, an Egyptian pharaoh, or a modern 
politician, may be quite different things, but that is not to say that those phenomena 
should not all be seen as warfare. The mother whose son died in a cattle raid in 
Neolithic Anatolia undoubtedly grieved just as much as the mother of an Iraqi or 
American soldier killed in the Gulf War; the fact that some modern scholars might 
be unwilling to say that "primitive" Neolithic raids are "real" war hardly changes 
the poignancy of the mother's grief (WBC 3-24). But the debate over what "real" 
war is misses the real point that should be the focus of our attention. Although, 
using historical methods, we may not be able to answer questions concerning 
when, where, why, and how war began, we can contribute to the discussion by 
instead asking: "by what types of evidence can we know that war occurred in the 
p.isi lii tcality .ill that we are actually able to discuss is our first evidence for war, 
in ol war. The Near Hastern evidence disi ir < d U I. >u indi< ates 

n. .1 ill. ,U lll.ll 



that war probably existed millennia before the first surviving written texts that 
describe war. War was already commonplace by the time the first writing appears. 
Some of our earliest writing describes a mythic or legendary past in which warfare 
was present, which may thus serve as possible evidence for prehistoric warfare. 

We are therefore left with four types of archaeological evidence which may 
point to the existence of prehistoric war: martial art, weapons, human skeletons 
with weapon trauma, and fortifications (WBC 36-9). Two of these forms of evi- 
dence are not, in fact, helpful in trying to identify the origins of war. Weapons are 
I dubious indicator, since almost all Neolithic weapons — axe, dagger, spear, jave- 
lin, bow, and sling — were also used in hunting and other non-military activities. 
Thus the presence of a bow may indicate hunting rather than war. (The mace, as 
discussed below, may be a uniquely militant tool.) A skeleton with weapon trauma 
i . also not conclusive evidence for warfare, since the person may be a victim of 
murder rather than war. However, the presence of a large number of skeletons 
with weapon trauma in mass or simultaneous burials is probably conclusive evi- 
dence that they died in warfare, though even here it could point to mass execution 
or ritual human sacrifice. Practically speaking, this leaves us three types of 
archaeological evidence that can point to the existence of war: art depicting con- 
Mi ct, mass burial of skeletons with weapons trauma, and fortifications. Near East- 
ern examples of each of these types of evidence will be discussed below It must be 
emphasized that, while the presence of these types of evidence should be sufficient 
to demonstrate that war occurred, their absence does not necessarily demonstrate 
that war did not occur. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Many, if 
not most, wars in ancient Near Eastern history have left no archaeologically dis- 
l er nable evidence that they were fought. Artistic evidence for archaic warfare 
l mind in early cave paintings from Late Epipaleolithic or early Neolithic Spain 
J 1 0,000-6000} show organized humans fighting and killing each other with bows 
(1 A 52—5; OW 20-3). Likewise some Epipaleolithic or early Neolithic mass burials 
with skeletons with weapon trauma have been found in Germany and at Jebel 
S.ihaba in the northern Sudan (FA 52-3; OW 23-4). Overall, however, such 
.uchaeological evidence is quite sparse for periods before the late Neolithic. War- 
i.i re clearly existed, but there is no evidence to show it was endemic. 

Most arguments for warfare in the Epipaleolithic and early Neolithic periods 
are in fact based on anthropological analogy. The assumption here, and it is only an 
assumption, is that human societies go through a sort of evolutionary progress from 
"bands" of foragers to "tribes", then "chiefdoms" and finally "states". 2 This is 
essentially an anthropological model for the evolution of human social and poli- 
neal organization in which it is assumed that human social groups that modern 
anthropologists classify in certain categories will behave in similar patterns, even 
though they may be separated by thousands of years or tens of thousands of miles, 
ii id have completely different languages, cultures, and religions. Thus, if one finds 
evidence foi warfare in a thirteenth-century CE chiefdom in North America 
i \\ lit f.S *)), it is seen as evidence that warfare would have similarly occurred in 
, lu. tdoms" in the Nr.u Fast in M H II ) In T, or Africa m 5(H) CE. Likewise the fact 




that some twentieth-century CE tribal groups in the Amazon or New Guinea 
fight wars (FA 56—60), is viewed as evidence that ancient human groups classified 
by anthropologists as tribes should also have fought wars. 3 The problem with this 
approach is that, while some tribal groups clearly engage in warfare, others do not. 
Some human groups resolve conflict through arbitration and mediation, others 
tli rough violence. And the same group might negotiate in one circumstance and 
fight a war in another. Thus, while anthropology can tell us a great deal about the 
range of possible human social behavior, it cannot tell us that a specific tribe or 
town in Anatolia in 5000 BCE did or did not engage in warfare. 

My suspicion — and it is only a suspicion — is that war began at least in the Paleolithic 
inncs when different foraging clans first began to interact (CB 55—127). Much of this 
interaction was undoubtedly peaceful and friendly, such as the exchange of goods 
01 intermarriage. If anthropological analogy is any guide, however, it seems likely that 
conflicts would also have occurred, be it competition for food or other resources, 
k idnapping women, or personal offense taken for a petty insult. In such circumstances 
i onflict could turn to fighting, and as groups rallied to support and defend their 
I kinsmen, fighting could turn into tribal war. A death or injury needed revenge; stolen 
property or kidnapped women needed to be recovered. This is not to say that wars 
always occurred between different foraging clans, only that competition and conflict 
1 w -t ween rival clans created the social circumstances in which tribal wars could occur. 

The "military threshold" 

Rather than attempting to answer the question of when and why war began 
through anthropological models, I will take an historical approach and ask two 
questions: what is our earliest archaeological evidence of warfare (artistic, skeletal, 
Or fortification); and, when do the various regions of the Near East cross what I 
will call the "military threshold"? By military threshold, I mean the point at which 
warfare has essentially become endemic in a region, and at which all peoples in a 
region are forced to militarize their societies to one degree or another. In the Near 
l ; ,.ist t his seems to have first occurred as early as the sixth millennium in Anatolia, and 
is ( losely related to the culmination of a process we call the Neolithic Revolution. 

The Neolithic Revolution 4 

l-.pipaleolithic {c. 18,000—8500} human hunting bands had low population density 
.11 ul were scattered in small clans of a few dozen people living in temporary camps 
and wandering in seasonal migration patterns; as time progressed some of these 
seasonal ramps in ideal ecological zones with plentiful food had the capacity to 
develop permanent villages with populations in the low hundreds. Anthro- 
pological analogy would suggest that Epipaleolithic hunting clans were territorial 
and ( ould have had periods of competition and conflict with other clans, possibly 
iir.iiiiii: (lashes of tribal warfare (AS 39-40; CB; WBC). However, there is little 
evidence toi l'.pipa!cohthi< warfare in the Near East, 

I he Neolithic period in the ancient Near East {c. 8500-4500} witnessed a 

umber of fundamental technological, social, and economic developments which 

i I the foundation for the eventual crossing of the military threshold. These 

hide the development of the domestication of plants and animals, metallurgy, 

■...its, social stratification, the development of large cities with the capacity for 

Mm mental building, the worship of militant gods, and the foundation of warlike 

royal dynasties. Evidence for the crossing of the military threshold as early as the 

Ji millennium can be found in weapons, art, and fortification, as well as mythic 

■ 1 1 lections written down in later periods. Each of these developments was a slow 

ro( ess, taking centuries if not millennia. Some developments occurred earlier or 

K>re rapidly in one area than another, but the increasing network of international 

i u\c and cultural contacts - developed largely in pursuit of rare and valuable 

■ II ices such as metal, precious stones, and building wood - meant that devel- 

ments in one region of the Near East were eventually copied in all others. The 

imiilative effect was the formation of new human social structures based on the 

state, and the crossing of the military threshold. 

Domestication of plants and animals 

fundamental development of the Neolithic period is the domestication of plants 

id animals. The move from hunting and foraging to domestication seems to have 

merged from both ecological and demographic factors. Ecologically there seems 

■ i have been an increasing desiccation in the Near East during the Neolithic per- 

-!. forcing more people to live in progressively smaller regions with the best 

■Piter and food resources. At the same time we see a rise in population, bringing 

reasing competition for decreasing resources. 

Domestication of plants and animals emerged as strategies to bring greater 

in ml and security to food resources, and to intensify the amount of food that 

ould be produced from a given tract of land. Domestication of plants, including 

•, Max, barley, beans and peas, allowed increasing sedentarization in the Near 

i | i with villages becoming permanent sites of habitation and slowly growing in 

| i 1 domestication of animals such as cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, and dogs increas- 

i supplanted hunting and fishing as a major source of food. Initially these 

lopments occurred in upper Mesopotamia, Syria, and Anatolia, where these 

i ints and animals were indigenous in the wild. Eventually these domestication 

i ictices moved into the river valleys, where irrigation techniques were first 

i i. in cd. In the long run, irrigated agriculture in the great river valleys of the 

ii would prove far more productive, giving those regions significant agri- surpluses and laying the foundation for the rise of the large city-states of 

M late fourth millennium. 

A lelated important development during the early Neolithic that was to have 

tt< impact nw military history was the formation of two symbiotic systems of 

Inoil produc tiou, agricultural and. pastoral, which in turn would create two dif- 

lenne mhi.iI systems tanners and nomads (AS 68 79, 126-31). Although today 





nomads as a significant military force in world history have essentially disappeared — 
largely due to the development of the airplane, motorized transportation, and food 
and water preservation and storage technologies — the complex interrelationship of 
cycles of cooperation and conflict between nomad and city formed a constant 
theme in the military history 7 of the Near East and the world until as late as the 
early twentieth century CE, when Arab nomads participated in the liberation of 
Damascus and the fall of the Ottoman Empire in World War One. 5 

Domestication had a number of significant indirect effects on the military 
potential of human societies. First, increasing competition for dwindling resources 
could lead to conflict and, potentially, to militarism. Second, domestication of 
plants required the new farmers to remain in a single location. Their survival 
depended on retaining control of their farms. If a forager or nomad band was 
threatened it could migrate. When a sedentary band was threatened, it could not 
flee; it had to submit or fight. This basic fact laid the foundation for the eventual 
development of fortifications and siegecraft. From the military perspective the 
domestication of the donkey, for which we have evidence by at least the early 
fourth millennium (EA 2:255), also came to play a significant role in military 
logistics. As a pack animal the donkey would prove invaluable for collecting and 
moving surplus resources, trade goods, and for campaign logistics. The full military 
impact of the domestication of animals will be discussed in Chapter Five. 

Agricultural surpluses 

Whereas nomads were restricted as to the maximum size of their herds (and hence 
food surplus) by the carrying capacity of their grazing land, agriculturalists could 
i reate large food surpluses simply by planting and harvesting more food than they 
needed for their families. The ability to produce food surpluses created the possi- 
bility for both increasing population and, more importantly, for some of the 
population to specialize in non-food-producing activities, including warfare. The 
major problems for agricultural food surpluses were storage and spoilage. These 
problems were resolved by the development of pottery {seventh millennium}, 
which, when properly sealed and stored, could preserve grains and other food 
products for years. The development of pottery permitted storage and transporta- 
tion of surplus food supplies. Militarily the combination of agricultural surpluses 
and pottery storage systems laid the foundation for the rise of a specialized warrior 
class who could control and gather much of a region's food surplus. This, in 
( ombination with using donkeys, boats, and eventually carts for transport, created 
military logistics, with the potential for the extension of military operations in 
i imc .nul space. 


( hi! i .u ht i ( \hlriK r for ho. its tomes from Syria in the Upper luipbratcs around 
>ti()(i. when- mil ill moilrl ho.iis were discovered at Tell Maslm.ui.i Mi- rarliest 


boats were reed canoes covered with pitch and propelled by paddling or punting. 
Similar models have been discovered at a number of other sites from Iraq in the 
hfth millennium (AS 167-8; EA 5:30-4). River craft developed on the Nile at 
m Highly the same time. From the military perspective boats facilitated transporta- 
tion and communication in the two great river valleys, the Nile and Mesopotamia, 
i he ability to move men, supplies, and equipment more easily and cheaply along 
I liese great river systems meant that it was easier to exercise military power within 
the river valleys than outside them. As we shall see, river transportation facilitated 
the formation of larger, more powerful, and longer lasting military states in the 
nver valleys than outside them. The eventual development of sea-going vessels 
a ill be discussed later. 

Increasing population 

Agricultural surpluses allowed for an increase in both the number and the size of 
(dements in the Near East throughout the Neolithic period. Rising populations 
I >i ought increased contact between various Neolithic clans and villages. Contact 
ould be peaceful, involving trade, intermarriage and cultural exchange. On the 
• it her hand, competition for resources could create rising tensions, possibly leading 
to war. Rising population naturally created the possibility for increased army size, 
and thus larger and more complex campaigns. 

Monumental building and fortifications 

The development of monumental building in the Neolithic had three compo- 
nents: the ability to mobilize enough manpower to erect monumental buildings; 
the development of the engineering skills necessary to do so; and a cultural 
impetus creating the desire to build large communal structures. The earliest form 
of monumental building in the Near East was the temple, but militarily the 
building of fortifications is most important. The earliest evidence w 7 e have for 
fortifications will be introduced later, but, generally speaking, fortification build- 
ing is our clearest indicator that a society has crossed the military threshold. The 
f.iet that a people are willing to spend the time and resources necessary to build 
i <>it jurations implies that they perceive a serious and long-standing military threat, 
h.mscending low-level feuding, raiding, or brigandage. 

Weapons and the origin of metallurgy {9000-2000} 6 

I here are several important military implications of the development of weapons 
during the Neolithic period. First, all ancient Near Eastern weapons — with the 
probable exception of the mace — originated as Neolithic tools. During the Neo- 
hthu, weapons and tools were generally made of flint, chert, or obsidian. Basic 
hunting weapons of the Neolithic axe, javelin, sling, bow and arrow, dagger, and 
spear are found in numerous Neolithic camps and burials. However, each of 



these tools had both peaceful and military uses: axes for chopping and shaping 
wood, projectile points for hunting, and knives for domestic cutting of food or 
other materials. The mere presence of these tools alone is thus not necessarily a 
clear archaeological indicator of warfare. 

All metal weapons were based on stone prototypes. Metal weapons developed 
different forms during the Bronze Age, but the basic prototypes for Bronze Age 
metal weapons can be found in Neolithic hunting weapons. The origin of metal- 
working was one of the most momentous developments in military history, lead- 
ing ultimately to metal weapons. Although this process originated in Neolithic 
times, developments continued for several millennia. The earliest evidence for the 
use of metal dates to the early ninth millennium at Cayonu in Anatolia, in the 
form of drilled and polished malachite (copper) as ornamental beads. Copper was 
the early metal of choice because it exists abundantly as a metal in its natural 
geological context, is easy to polish and drill, and can be hammered into different 
shapes., For the next three millennia {9000—6000} the only known copper objects 
continue to be native copper beads and pins; a small four-centimeter awl is the 
largest known metal object from this period. This type of small ornamental metal- 
working is sometimes called "trinket metallurgy". By the sixth millennium this 
type of trinket copper- working had spread into northern Mesopotamia, Iran and 
Baluchistan (south-west Pakistan). Additionally, the technique of annealing — 
heating native copper at low temperatures to facilitate hammering and prevent 
cracking — also developed during this period, laying the foundation for the even- 
tual smelting of metaL From the perspective of military history, metal -working was 
irrelevant during the early Neolithic, since all weapons in that period continued to 
be made of flint, chert, or obsidian (CAM 34). This was to change in the city of 
Can Hasan in southern Anatolia, however, where a copper shaft-hole mace-head 
was discovered dating to the sixth millennium, the earliest known metal weapon, 
and the earliest large metal object in the world (EA 4:5b; CANE 3:1503b; ET 125). 
It was probably made in imitation of a stone mace. Furthermore, it was found with 
the skeleton of a man in a house in a level of the city that was destroyed by fire, 
presumably in war. The mace wielding warrior apparently died in battle defending 
his doomed home (CAM 46). 

The fact that the earliest discovered large metal object was a mace is significant, 
for the only purpose of a mace is to kill. The mace may be a Neolithic weapon 
uniquely developed for warfare. The antecedents to the mace are both the club 
and the axe. The club, in its simplest form of a heavy stick, is probably the earliest 
human weapon. The Paleolithic axe was formed from binding a sharpened rock to 
the club. A Neolithic mace is distinguished from the axe in that there is generally 
no cutting edge on a mace; it is simply a rounded heavy weight fastened to a 
wooden shaft . In theory a mace could be used for hunting - for dispatching a 
wounded prey, for example. In practice, however, a knife or an axe would do just 
as well, for if .i hunted prey is already disabled by archery, then any weapon could 
In- used tii kill it. Uninjured animals, on the other hand, are generally too fast to he 
i .Mh'.hi and injured by a man with a mace. There is no real reason to design a ni.n e 



iplement the axe in the Neolithic hunting arsenal. Even if it eventually came 

U ied by Neolithic hunters, the question is: why make a mace in the first 

Whereas an axe can have a non-military use - chopping wood - the only 

■ . .<■ of a mace is to kill. The mace is specifically designed for smashing things, 

) illy skulls and bones. 

I next phase in Near Eastern metallurgy {5000-3000} was the development 
melting and casting (EA 4:6; CANE 3:1503-6). Copper smelting is first in 
ilcni c at Catal Hoyuk in Anatolia in the early sixth millennium, and later at 
IN is {c. 5000} and Tepe Ghabristan in Iran {c. 4500}, where a smelting 
hop was discovered including crucibles, molds, a furnace and twenty kilo- 
i eopper ore. The oldest known metal spearhead was found in Mesopota- 
! „n,g to the early fifth millennium (EA 4:3b). During this period the main 
i used for weapon-making was copper or arsenic-copper. Burials at Susa in 
I u estern Iran from the late fifth millennium included 55 copper axes.. By the 
irth millennium copper smelting and casting was known in Syria, Canaan 
fe] Mishmar), and Mesopotamia as we'll, where weapons included largely axes, 
and spearheads. In other words, logically enough, copper smelting and 
i began in Anatolia and Iran, where copper was abundant and where earlier 
,,,ua trinket metalworking had existed for several millennia. Although some 
a i opper objects could have been traded into Mesopotamia and Egypt, copper 
llurgy was transmitted as an already fully developed technology into metal- 
Mesopotamia and Egypt, whose new metal industries were completely 
ndent on imports for their raw materials. 
I he development of metal weapons is another sign of a probable movement 
irds the military threshold. For ordinary hunting and household activities, 
, .,,<• tools probably served nearly as well as metal tools. Given the relative expense 
i the earliest metal objects the average householder would probably not be able to 
ifibrd a metal axe for chopping household firewood, or a metal tipped javelin for 
lilting antelope. Eventually, of course, metal tools became common and inex- 
N niive enough that they could be owned by ordinary householders. But initially 
,i.,l weapons were rare and expensive, and affordable only by the elites. While an 

at might have used a metal javelin for hunting, there seems to be little need 

!,., a metal axe, since aristocrats did not cut their own wood. Although it cannot 
I nown for certain, the earliest metal axes, spearheads, and daggers were prob- 
,U\ used only by the elites specifically for warfare; the appearance of metal 
ipons is thus most likely a sign of militarism. 

[Tic need for access to metal mines and markets by the emerging metal indus- 

of ] Lgypt and Mesopotamia was one of the driving factors behind Chalcolithic 

I Bronze Age imperialism (CAM 35). Once a society became dependent on 

i i, found itself increasingly drawn to securing access to the needed ores. In 

\,,,iolu where (here is ample copper ore, this did not create a serious problem. 

|iu, in Mesopoiaima and Egypt, with limited copper resources, the search for 

,,,, Ll | beanie an impetus to imperialism, leading emerging city-states to explore 

I n uU . tn nbum (npprr , 1IU ], |.,um, tin. When these peaceful methods proved 



insufficient or unstable, they would move to raiding, controlling, or conquering 
metal resources. The search for metal became a spur to imperialism, and the pos- 
session of metal-armed armies likewise maximized the possibility for military 
success in that imperialism. 

The third phase in Near Eastern weapon metallurgy is the development of bronze 
{3000-2000} (EA 4:8-11; CANE 3:1506-7). Copper is a relatively soft metal 
which doesn't hold an edge well. While useful for making large heavy objects such 
as maceheads and heavy axes, it is less effective with thinner spearheads, knife 
blades or projectile points. Alloying roughly 10 percent tin with 90 percent copper 
created bronze, a much harder alloy that holds a sharpened edge nicely and thus 
was more useful for bladed weapons and projectile points. The actual tin content 
of the earliest Near Eastern bronze varied from 2—15 percent. The earliest known 
bronze objects date to about 3000 in Syria - hence the beginning of the Bronze 
Age. Bronze was used in Mesopotamia by the twenty-eighth century and in Egypt 
by 2700. However, throughout the period we call the Early Bronze age {3000- 
2000}, most metal weapons continued to be made from arsenic-copper rather 
than tin-bronze (MW 1:182—3). Copper ores with trace elements of arsenic create 
a melted copper that is less viscous, and hence easier to cast with superior results. 
Although there are some rare examples of the tin-copper alloy we call bronze, 
most of the weapons in the Near East during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze 
age are in fact arsenic-copper weapons (CANE 3:1505-6). For example, a hoard 
of metal objects found in Susa dating to roughly 2500 contained forty-eight cop- 
per objects, of which six (12 percent) had 2 percent tin, and four (8 percent) had 7 
percent tin; none had the 10 percent tin content traditionally associated by modern 
scholars with true tin-bronze. In other words, four-fifths of the copper objects 
found in this hoard contained no tin at all, and those with tin were weak bronze alloys. 

Another important thing to note is that, throughout the Chalcolithic and Early 
Bronze ages, stone weapons continued to be used alongside metal weapons. At 
first metal weapons were undoubtedly rare and precious, used only by the elites - 
they were weapons for gods and kings. As time progressed, however, the propor- 
tion of metal to stone weapons steadily increased, culminating in the Middle 
Bronze age when we begin to see the overwhelming predominance of metal 
weapons. Since Near Eastern martial art is nearly entirely the product of the roy- 
alty and nobility, depictions of weapons probably tend to show elite rather than 
common armament. Another characteristic of the Bronze Age weapons industry 
that may distort our data is the fact that metal was quite valuable and invariably 
taken as plunder and recycled when damaged. Our finds of metal weapons are not 
statistically random, but are significantly skewed by the fact that most of them are 
intentionally buried, either in tombs (generally of the elites), in votive offerings to 
temples, or in hoards buried for hiding and eventual recovery (EA 4:1-5). The 
fundainc proble with early bronze-making was that there were no good tin 
sources in the Near East that were accessible to ancient mining technologies 
(I )ANE 292). One source may have been available in the Taurus Mountains, but if 
ii was exploited it produced only a small quantity of tin that was instill n i m lm the 

> ' 


hutgeoning demands of the Near East bronze industries. The main source for tin 

bfOUghout the Early and Middle Bronze ages was Afghanistan (known to the 

unmans as Aratta or Tukrish), which also supplied all of the Near Easts lapis 

uli, a highly valued semi-precious stone (EA 4:8-9; CANE 3:1507-9). From 

he Near Eastern perspective, tin, lapis lazuli and gold were ail of roughly equal 

iliir. One of the reasons metal armor was not used extensively in the Early and 

luldle Bronze periods was that it was inordinately expensive. But whereas lapis 

nli and gold were used purely for ornamental purposes, tin had a crucial military 

■ ii pose as well, being the key ingredient in making superior bronze weapons. The 
I in Koad" trade route from Afghanistan to Elarn and Sumer thus became a key 

1 1 ttegic artery, and by the middle of the third millennium had been firmly estab- 
: lied with regular trade. From Mesopotamia tin was shipped, with at least a 100 
rcent markup in value, to Anatolia, Syria, and ultimately Egypt. The best- 
I>m umented example of this tin trade is the Assyrian Middle Bronze merchant 
olony at Kanesh (Nesha) in Anatolia {2000-1750}, where a surviving merchant 
i. hive describes shipping 80 tons of tin over a fifty-year period to the city-states 

■ I Anatolia from Assyria and originally from Afghanistan (see Chapter Eleven). 
I lnoughout the Bronze Age Near East, tin was the strategic resource that was as 

i [.i I to ancient military systems as oil is to modern armies. 

Because of the relative scarcity of tin supplies it was not until the Middle 
Bronze age {2000-1600} that true tin-bronze became the predominant metal 
illoy for weapon making. Thus, in a sense, true Bronze Age warfare begins only in 
Middle Bronze age. This increase in the overall bronze supply also allowed, for 
the first time, armies to be equipped entirely with bronze weapons - although the 
use of non-metal arrowheads seems to have continued, probably because shooting 
ui arrow often meant losing the arrow and bronze arrowheads were still too 
I | pensive to lose. By the end of the Middle Bronze period bronze body armor was 

•inning to appear, but only for the elite chariot warriors. The specific details of 
the impact of metal weapons on different regions of the Near East will be discussed 
hi subsequent chapters. 

Militant gods 

rhe precise nature of the gods worshipped in the Neolithic period is uncertain 
because of lack of any textual evidence. What is clear, however, is that when writing 
fust appears in the Near East, war-gods were already well established and widely 
worshipped, as discussed in the following chapters. Given the conservative though 
sviu retistic nature of ancient Near Eastern religions, it is quite likely that the 
worship of war-gods antedates their first appearance in iconography and texts by at 
[cast several centuries. This would place the worship of war-gods in the Near East 
in. |,i ua than the mid fourth millennium in both Egypt and Mesopotamia, and 
probably much earlier. It is unclear if the worship of militant gods increased mili- 
tarism amom; the worshippers, or if a warlike people naturally gravitated towards 
woishippmi', warlike rods. (Vlosi likely the relationship was symbiotic. However 




that may be, it is probable that those groups worshipping warlike gods developed 
militant social institutions and engaged in a higher frequency and greater intensity 
of warfare. However the worship of militant gods may have first originated, their 
worship is another sign that a people have probably crossed the military threshold. 

Warlike royal dynasties 

The creation of a military aristocracy centered around a warlord-king - a ruler 
with the economic, ideological, and coercive power to mobilize the entire society 
for war - was a crucial step in the movement to cross the military threshold. 
Rulers for whom warfare was a means of ideological legitimization, personal 
aggrandizement, and increasing wealth were rulers who would be more likely to 
bring cities into war. The alliance of warlord-kings with priests was a key ingre- 
dient in the crossing of the military threshold. Priests, speaking in the name of the 
gods, could legitimize or even command the military endeavors of kings, while 
plunder from victory in battle would be shared with the gods by donations to the 
priest-controlled temple institutions. 

All of these developments — social, economic, political, technological, and 
religious - had their origins in the prehistoric Neolithic and Chalcolithic period. 
By the time writing first appears in Egypt and Mesopotamia, both of those socie- 
ties had already crossed the military threshold. As Arther F err ill aptly put it: "as 
soon as man learned how to write, he had wars to write about" (OW 31). The 
following sections in this chapter will examine the specific evidence for warfare 
and militarism in the major regions of the Neolithic Near East. 

Neolithic Anatolia {to 11,000-5500} 

The early Neolithic in Anatolia {11,000-6500} broadly parallels similar develop- 
ments throughout the Near East: shift from hunting to village-farming economies, 
domestication of plants and animals, and development of pottery by around 6500. 
Most of the Early Neolithic settlements of Anatolia are similar to other con- 
temporary villages in the Near East: small sites with a mixed food-collecting and 
hunting economy, and no fortifications. Some, like Cayonu {8250-5000} (EA 
1:444-7) and Nevali Cori {8300-5000} (EA 4:131-4) in south-eastern Turkey, 
had monumental communal and religious buildings, indicating that they had suf- 
ficient population and social organization to have built fortifications if they had 
been needed. Their absence implies the lack of a serious and sustained threat. At 
the early Neolithic site of Hallan Cemi Tepesi a triangular stone mace head was 
discovered, possibly a war weapon (ET 87). 


The famous wall and tower at Jericho {c. 7000} are often considered (lie oldest 
fortifications in the world (see p. 29). Jericho, however, was essentulh m isolated 

■ \ ample of fortress-building designed to respond to a serious but isolated military 
1 1 ) teat. In Anatolia, on the other hand, we find a cluster of fortified or quasi-for- 
i if led sites - Catal Hoyuk (Qatal Hoyiik), Asikli Hoyuk (A§ikli Hoyiik), Kurucay 
I loyuk (Kurucay Hoyiik), and Hacilar - all with fortifications dating to the mid- 
io late Neolithic period. The site of Asikli Hoyuk {seventh millennium} in cen- 
ual Anatolia has closely packed houses and a defensive wall of mud brick (EA 

1:123-4; PA 187-9). Kurucay Hoyuk {6000-5500} has a late Neolithic fortified 

i one wall with projecting semi-circular towers (PA 166-72). 

Catal Hoyuk (Catal Huyuk) {6500-5 500} 1 

The site of Catal Hoyuk is one of the best preserved in the Neolithic Near East. 
I or the military historian it is notable for both its walls and its wall paintings. The 

vails at Catal Hoyuk are rather peculiar, and could perhaps be described as proto- 
fortifications. Most of the houses are built adjoining one another, sharing walls 
with other houses, but with no doors between dwellings. The outer walls of the 
outermost houses of the village thus formed a solid wall surrounding the entire 
complex (CH 68-9). Individual houses were entered by ladders through holes in 
i he roof, while entry into the village as a whole was made by ladders which were 
leaned against the outside walls, or through a fortified gate (CH 70). What this 
effectively created was a walled city which could be defended from the rooftops on 
ilie outer perimeter. The outer walls, while certainly a barrier to occasional raiders 
.\nd brigands, were not much thicker than the interior walls, and would not have 
offered a serious obstacle to a determined enemy. None the less, an enemy 
breaking through an outer wall would have access only to a single dwelling. To get 
io the next dwelling he would have to break through another wall, or climb a 
ladder up through the roof-door. Catal Hoyuk probably represents a transitional 
phase in fortification; a first effort to protect a city with minimal additional 
expenditure of resources and labor. Weapons found at Catal Hoyuk include stone 
daggers, spearheads, arrowheads, and maces (ET 101; CH 209, 213, §113-15, xiv); 
although copper trinket metallurgy was known at Catal Hoyuk, all weapons in the 
late Neolithic were from flint or obsidian. 

The earliest substantial Neolithic art of Anatolia - the wall paintings at Catal 
1 loyuk — do not show explicitly military themes. We do have scenes of men 
hunting with bows and perhaps slings, weapons which would eventually be turned 
to warfare. 8 Another scene shows a deer hunt with bows and lassos (CH §62). 
Most of the hunters wear a flowing leopard-skin kilt and are armed with a bow or 
I club/mace. Between the two hunting scenes is a third scene, which has been 
interpreted as a hunting dance (CH 174, §61), which is certainly an excellent 
possibility. It may also, however, represent a war dance or victory celebration, or 
even a battle. Twelve men are shown in running postures but are facing in different 
directions. Seven are armed with bow and/or club/mace, five are unarmed. No 
animals arc present, but none of the men seem to be directly confronting each 
other. What points to ,i possible military context is that three of the men are 



headless,, and one of the headless men is armed with a bow. One unarmed man 
stands in the middle, tied to two of the headless men. If the painting represents a 
hunting dance, as Mellaart believes, why are there headless men, and why are some 
men tied together? An alternative interpretation is that the scene shows an after- 
battle victory celebration in which bound prisoners are brought forward and 

From the military perspective another intriguing wall painting of Catal Hoyuk 
comes from Room 7, which shows carrion birds hovering over headless bodies 
(CA 169, §45—9). This has been interpreted as representing the exposure and 
excarnation of bodies before burial (CH 167-8). The decapitation of the bodies 
may also relate to the preservation and veneration of ancestral skulls (CH 65-6, 84) 
such as are found at the "skull house" at Nevali Cori (Nevali Qori) (EA 4:133) 
On the other hand, the painting in Room 7 may depict the decapitated bodies of 
enemies killed in battle and left to be devoured by vultures, a military practice 
memorialized in very early martial art in both Mesopotamia (Stele of Vultures, 
AFC 190-1, cf. FI §887), and Egypt (Battlefield Palette and Narmer Palette, EWP 
29). A different vulture scene shows a man with a bow or sling in one hand and a 
mace or club in the other standing over a headless body flanked by two vultures 
(CH §46). Mellaart believes the standing man is "wardfing] off the two vultures 
from the small headless corpse" (CH 166), although this runs counter to his overall 
interpretation of people intentionally exposing the dead to be eaten by vultures 
(CH 167—8) — why chase the vultures away if you intentionally expose the corpses? 
A very fragmentary scene shows a man who seems to be carrying a human head, 
perhaps a war trophy (CH §51). If this military interpretation is correct, the 8000- 
year-old murals of Catal Hoyuk would be the oldest military victory memorial in 
the world. 

Unfortunately, all of the evidence at Catal Huyuk which I have interpreted 
from a military perspective is ambiguous. The overlapping exterior walls may be 
intended for protection, but might also simply be a quirky way to save building 
materials and time. The mace may be a war weapon, or might be used to dispatch 
a deer wounded by arrows on a hunt. The headless corpses amid the vultures may 
be war dead, or may be a form of exposure of the dead known anciently in the 
Near East, most closely associated with Zoroastrianism and Tibet. 9 Dancing armed 
men may be preparing for the hunt or celebrating victory in battle. These ambi- 
guities make certainty of interpretation impossible. 

Hacilar {5700-4800} 10 

. itai y interpretation of Catal Hoyuk, given above, is strengthened by the 
fortifications and destruction levels of the late contemporary site of Hacilar. The 
originally nn walled village was destroyed around 5500, and rebuilt with a defensive 
wall 1.5 3 meters thick. It was destroyed again in 5250, and rebuilt with stronger 
"lorlrcsslike characteristics" (EA 2:44%). It was destroyed again and abandoned 
J IISUO ('.m f lasan was also destroyed by fire at rough l\ ih- inn time 


I 1 I 25), leading some to postulate a period of significant military upheaval in the 

sixth millennium. In other words, expanding from the proto-fortifications of 

• nal Hoyuk, true fortified cities appear in Anatolia by the mid-sixth millennium, 

i tiering destruction in war and rebuilding in an even more strongly fortified 

edition. This is strong evidence that Anatolia had crossed the military threshold 

i Ins time. 

Warfare in Neolithic Syria {10,000-4000} 

The Early Neolithic Period {10, 000-6 800} n 

\ elsewhere in the Near East, the Neolithic period in Syria was one of transi- 
tu from foraging to farming and nomadism through the domestication of plants 
u! animals, presumably in response to ecological change at the end of the 
Pleistocene period. There are a few surviving signs of militarism in the Syrian 
Neolithic. Neolithic weapons - flint arrowheads, javelins, knives, and stone 

DECS (AS 19-20, 26-7, 79-80; ED 67, 71, 74) - all had hunting or other 
domestic functions and are not sure indicators of war. None the less, the discovery 

-I a number of skeletons with embedded projectile points, as well as a burned 
house with a number of skeletons inside, indicate that violence, and probably 
Warfare, was present in the Neolithic (AS 76-7). An international "arms trade" 

il.o makes its first appearance in the early Neolithic, with the development of 
i ibsidian trade over hundreds of miles from the volcanic regions in eastern Anatolia 
Into Syria (AS 82). Obsidian creates a finer and sharper edge for tools, and was 
highly prized by Neolithic peoples. Although most Neolithic obsidian pro- 
I i tile points or blades were not primarily intended for military purposes in the 
Neolithic, the search for such scarce resources created international trade and 
contact between scattered groups; competition for these resources was one of 
ihe key factors contributing to inter-clan tension, potentially leading to tribal 

As time progressed the number and size of Neolithic villages expanded, 
increasingly engaging in food production (farming and herding) rather than food 
gathering. The size of early Neolithic villages in Syria ranged from 1 to 12 hec- 
tares, with a population of the largest of these Neolithic villages, such as Abu 
1 [urcyra (12 hectares) perhaps reaching 1000 people; the population of most set- 
tlements, however, numbered in the hundreds (AS 59). Neolithic villages had 
enough manpower and social organization to begin to undertake monumental 
building, such as rough stone walls several meters high and terraced platforms for 
t itual purposes at Halula and Tell Sabi Abyad {c. 7000} (AS 63—5), roughly con- 
temporary with Catal Hoyuk in Anatolia and Jericho in Palestine. Despite 
possessing the logistical and organizational capability to build such large stone 
walk, however, none of these early Neolithic sites seem to have been fortified, 
pointing to a l.n k ol serious and sustained military threat in the early Neolithic; by 
'tin" 1 S\ i i.i not vet crossed the military threshold. 



Late Neolithic Syria {6800-4000} (AS 99-180) 

By around the sixth millennium spreading Neolithic Syrian farming villages began 
to be integrated into a the broader regional Mesopotamian cultural and agri- 
cultural system of the Late Neolithic, subdivided into the Halaf Period {5900— 
5200} and the Ubaid Period { 5200-4000 }. 12 This phase is characterized by the 
development of pottery, increasing similarities of material culture throughout dif- 
ferent regions (indicating ongoing interregional contacts), numerous scattered 
small villages, as well as the development of a few large villages of over 1000 
people. Some sites, like Bouqras, show signs of organized uniform village plan- 
ning, perhaps pointing to the beginnings of social hierarchy and emerging elites. 
Overall, however, the Late Neolithic is characterized by egalitarian, self-sufficient, 
and autonomous communities. 

Like the early Neolithic, the late Neolithic archaeological data presents little 
evidence of extensive militarism. As its name indicates, the "Burnt Village" level 
at Tell Sabi Abyad was destroyed by fire around 6000, possibly indicating destruc- 
tion in military conflict. However, the fire has also been interpreted as a ritual act 
of destruction; bodies found inside the burned homes had died before the con- 
flagration (AS 112-14, 148). Unfortunately, a burn level at an archaeological site is 
not certain evidence of warfare, since fires may be started accidentally or even 
intentionally in non-military contexts. A burial pit at Tepe Gawra contained 24 
bodies which seem to have been "thrown into the pit without any attendant 
ritual" (AS 148); they may have been victims of warfare. 

There is evidence of some changes in the nature of archery in the Syrian late 
Neolithic. It has been suggested that the expanding use of smaller projectile points 
may represent some type of change in bow technology. The decline in frequency 
of projectile point finds during the Late Neolithic is probably due to the spread of 
agriculture leading to the decreasing importance of hunting as a source of food, 
and therefore a decrease in the practice of archery (AS 128, 132-3). Two Late 
Neolithic Syrian pots have paintings of archers with quivers in a hunting context 
(AS 133). We also have the first evidence of the sling in the form of thousands of 
clay sling bullets (AS 128,132). In the seventh millennium we also find the first 
evidence of the use of copper in Syria, harbinger of the later development of metal 
weapons; however, at this period metal objects are only small ornamental objects 
such as beads (AS 133). 

The last phase of the Late Neolithic is known as the Ubaid period {5200- 
4000} (AS 154-80; M = CAM 53), known for increasing uniformity of pottery 
styles, housing structure and other aspects of material culture between Mesopota- 
mia and Syria. It has been speculated in the past that this uniformity may be rela- 
ted to migration or even conquest (AS 154), but it must be emphasized that 
uniformity of material culture does not demonstrate shared ethnicity nor the 
existence of a single political entity - the existence of Japanese cars in the United 
Slates, for example, is not evidence that Japan conquered the United States. It does 
indicate, however, that the Ubaid was a period of increasing long-distance social 



md economic contacts. At Ubaid-period Tell Mashnaqa two small clay miniatures 
of boats were found, the first evidence of riverine sailing on the Upper Euphrates. 

The actual boats were apparently bundled reed canoes coated with bitumen, 

linilar to those used until recently by the Marsh Arabs of southern Iraq (AS 167— 
B. The ability to move men and supplies up and down the Tigris and Euphrates 
1 1 vers would become important factors in later Mesopotamian warfare. The first 

igns of the use of copper for tools rather than ornamentation also appear; a copper 
ixehead was made in the late Ubaid period, transitional with the following Chal- 
< olithic period (AS 169). Signs of warfare during the Ubaid period in Syria are still 
relatively rare. None the less, by about 4000 a number of key technologies and 
practices are in place that will allow the eventual transition across the military 

Neolithic Canaan {8500-4300} 


Before 8500 Syria and Canaan were inhabited by Epipaleolithic hunting and 
loraging bands known by archaeologists as the Natufian culture. The ecology of 
i lie region was wetter then, allowing human occupation of areas which are now 
deserts. The region was sparsely populated, with humans organized into small 
I mship-based bands not much larger than a hundred people. There is no evidence 
of warfare before the Neolithic period, although small-scale tribal conflicts 
undoubtedly occurred. Hunting technologies developed during the Epipaleolithic 
| 10,500-8500}, which would lay the foundation for warfare in the following 
millennia. These included the bow and arrow and javelin, with flint or bone pro- 
jectile points (THE 42). Likewise flint axes and daggers were in use for hunting 
me! domestic purposes, which could also double as weapons if needed. 

The beginning of the pre-pottery Neolithic period {8500-6000} is character- 
i ed by the transition from food gathering to food production, the rise of perma- 
nent dwellings, and new burial practices. It is during this early Neolithic period 
i the first signs of fortification in the Near East, and indeed the world, appear at 
i he site of Jericho (Tell el-Sultan) in modern Palestine. 14 Human settlement at 
I i icho was based on the perennial springs of the region. Initially foragers were 
in i acted to the rich plant and animal life at the springs, where they built a small 
In me and dwelling huts in the Epipaleolithic. By the eighth millennium, how- 
< ver, the development of agriculture had transformed this foraging settlement into 
i city with a population between 1000 and 3500 (depending on presumed den- 
ii v), which was continuously occupied for nearly 2000 years. During this period 
i he people of Jericho built a massive defensive wall of large unhewn stones, almost 
iluee meters wide and four meters high. A deep dry moat eight meters wide was 
ni in the rock, and a round tower was constructed, measuring 8.5 meters in dia- 
meter and 7.7 meters high (FA 76; AW 1:115; THL 45). 

I'he appearance of such massive fortifications a thousand years before fortifica- 
Miiii in oihei regions has let! some to question their purpose, claiming the walls 
were designed t< » piotect the coin n umit y from (lash Hoods out oi the wadis to the 




west. However, it seems dubious that protection from flash floods would require 
such a massive four-meter-high wall - indeed the ditch alone should have proved 
sufficient for flood control. The stronger interpretation is that the wall and tower 
had a military purpose. It is possible that these defensive walls were designed to 
protect Jericho against rival proto-towns in the region — nearly two dozen proto- 
towns are known in Canaan and Jordan during this period. But it seems more 
likely that the walls were designed to defend the community from local raiders 
who were attracted to the rich springs at Jericho and the food surpluses collected 
there from their early Neolithic agriculture. Such walls would have been an insu- 
perable barrier to hunting or nomadic clans bent on a quick plundering raid at the 
oasis. It is likely that the Neolithic fortress of Jericho was built in response to a very 
specific, local, but ongoing threat, rather than reflecting a rise in regional militarism. 

Tools with a possible military function - such as flint axes, knives, and projectile 
points - are found throughout the region (ALB 46, 50, 52), but no other certain 
signs of militarism are known in the Neolithic period {8500-4300}. The archaic 
walls of Jericho remained in use throughout this period, however, and were rebuilt 
twice; a similar, though less massive wall was found at Beidha (ALB 45). We have 
no evidence of other fortification building at other Neolithic sites. 

Based upon anthropological analogy we can perhaps assume that conflicts arose 
between rival proto-towns, and between sedentarists and hunting nomads, but 
such claims remain nothing but assumptions. There was increasing desiccation of 
the region throughout the Neolithic period. Many sites in the Sinai, Negev 
(southern Israel), and Jordan, which had flourished in the early Neolithic period, 
show either significant occupational gaps or complete abandonment during parts 
of the later Neolithic (ALB 48-9). Whatever the ultimate cause of such declines in 
settlement - probably a combination of ecological degradation due to both desic- 
cation and overuse of resources — such stress would create the conditions for 
increasing conflict over decreasing resources, and warfare may have been a catalyst 
in the abandonment of some of these Neolithic sites. 

Neolithic Elam and Iran {7000-3400} 


Only 10 percent of Iran is arable, the rest being mountain, steppe, or desert. 
Throughout the Neolithic outside of Elam there were only sparse settlements 
leaving limited archaeological remains. Ancient Elam was roughly coterminous 
with the modern province of Khuzistan in south-western Iran, a region of flat 
terrain watered by tributaries of the Tigris with good agricultural potential. The 
modern province of Fars was also the center of another zone of city building 
which would give rise to the ancient city-state of Anshan. The mountains of the 
Zagros, running from north-west to south-east, were home to highland pastoral 
tribes who would on occasion play an important role in the military history of 
Mesopotamia. As with the rest of the Near East, evidence for militarism in early 
Neolithic Iran is slight. It is not until the late fifth millennium that we begin to see 
sure signs ol warfare. 

Susa {4300-3400} 

i lie major site showing military activity in Elam was Susa. The region of Susa had 
been occupied by small Neolithic villages since the eighth millennium. In the late 
fifth millennium, some of the surrounding Neolithic villages, such as Chogha 
Wish, were abandoned, perhaps due to warfare. The population seems to have 
migrated towards larger centers, perhaps for protection, with Susa being adopted 
,i new regional ceremonial center around 4300. 16 The "Apadana" section of 

lusa I {4300-3800} included a 2.1 -meter- thick mud brick wall - four times as 
thick as the usual walls of the period; this may have served as a citadel for the 

Liling elite (PAE 46-7). The city had a population of only a few thousand people, 

i ving as a ceremonial center for at least forty surrounding villages. At some point 

i! was destroyed by fire, presumably in warfare, and partially abandoned. Arsenic- 

opper was smelted during this period, with metallurgical technology stimulated 

i -in the Fars highlands (PAE 50). Burials at Susa from the late fifth millennium 

included 55 copper axes, possibly for elite warriors. On the other hand, military 

1 1 1 i.iges are notably absent from the seals of Tal-i Bakan during this period (PAE 53). 

During the Susa II period {3800-3100}, Susa shows strong cultural relations 

\ uh Sumer and the city-state of Uruk in Mesopotamia. Political power in Elam 
was no longer centralized in Susa, but diffused among smaller towns such as 
1 hogha Mish and Abu Fanduweh, each with a population of several thousand. 
i he exact nature of the relationship between Sumer and Elam during this period 
.1 subject of strong debate (PAE 52-67). In the absence of historical documents, 

it military implications of this relationship cannot be determined, but it is cer- 
tainly possible that Sumerian military power was exerted in some form in Elam 
luring this period (see pp. 37-9). The abrupt appearance of Uruk-style pottery 
ii ul proto-writing system at Susa, and more broadly in Elam as a whole, strongly 
Miggests the migration of people from Sumer to Elam - whether as merchants, the 
■ ourtiers of a married princess, peaceful colonists, or military conquerors is not 
< [car. The question of the overall significance of the "Uruk expansion" will be 
discussed in Chapter Two. 

Anshan (Tel Malyan) 17 

Anshan, near modern Shiraz in Fars province, had been occupied since 6000 BCE, 
but the region was sparsely populated before the late fourth millennium. It became 
.i major center of military power during the Proto-Elamite period {3400-2800}, 
when the city served as the administrative center of the region with a large copper 
sin el ting installation, and a probable population of several thousand. Militarily, it is 
most notable for its massive city walls. Built on a stone foundation and protected 
b\ ,i mud plaster glacis, the main wall is some five kilometers long, made from 
In it k on a stone foundation. There are two parallel inner walls, indicating an 
emerging understanding of concentric fortifications. The innermost wall is made 
oi hnck ,iih1 is five meters thick. The walls enclosed an area of 200 hectares, 




although only a portion of this was occupied. These fortifications made the city 
the most powerful military bastion east of Mesopotamia. It is unclear if the ene- 
mies of Anshan were local nomads and highlanders from within Fars, or outside 
invaders, but it seems that such massive and sophisticated fortifications would be 
excessive to deal with occasional bedouin raids. 

Neolithic Egypt {to 3500} 


Our understanding of the origins of warfare in Egypt must take into account the 
ecological transformation of the Sahara from savannah to desert which had 
occurred by the fourth millennium BC. In the past few decades the emergence of 
the science of climatology and the history of climates has allowed scholars to more 
fully understand how past environments differed, often dramatically, from current 
ecological conditions. Temperature, rainfall and other ecological conditions have 
fluctuated during the past 20,000 years. During this period the Sahara region has 
oscillated between dry and wet phases. During the wet phases the Sahara received 
sufficient rainfall to create a savannah ecology, with a wide range of animals 
flourishing there (EAE 1:385-9; GP 60-1). Between 7000 and 3500 (late Epipa- 
leolithic and Neolithic) the regions surrounding the Nile Valley that are currently 
desert were much like the current Sub-Saharan savannah, home to large herds of 
antelope, ibex, elephant, giraffe, ostrich, and cattle, and to lions (GP 83-112). 
During this period Egypt and the Sahara were also home to semi-nomadic foragers 
congregating in seasonal camps following the migration of animals and the natural 
cycles of the maturation of plants used as food; these foragers also availed them- 
selves of food and other resources from the Nile valley. 

Thus, for several thousand years, hunting and herding bands lived seasonally in 
the savannah surrounding the Nile Valley, and within the Nile Valley itself 
Humans in Egypt lived in small hunting and fishing camps, mixed with some 
proto-agriculture - as witnessed by grinding stones and the microlithic sickles used 
for harvesting grains. Human settlements in this period were generally temporary 
seasonal camps. Population was small and societies were probably organized into 
kinship-based clans. 

Although few details are known, it seems probable that these seasonal foragers 
engaged in tribal warfare. The oldest discovered cemetery in the Nile Valley at 
Gebel Sahaba in Nubia (northern Sudan) — broadly dated to roughly 12,000— 
9000 - provides the earliest evidence of tribal warfare, for roughly half of the 59 
skeletons at site 117 had flint projectile points among the bones, probably indi- 
cating death in battle; some had evidence of multiple healed wounds, perhaps 
indicating repeated fighting. 19 An extended period of drought beginning in the 
sixth millennium led to the desiccation of the Sahara savannah, stimulating 
increased migration into the Nile Valley as well as a transformation from food 
gathering to food production through the domestication of plants and animals 
{6000— 4000}. The hunters and herders who had formerly roamed the once fertile 
savannah were forced by this desiccation to slowly congregate in tin- Nile valley, 



■ mi', mounting competition for increasingly scarce resources. A number of new 

technologies, and domesticated plants and animals developed during this 

d, laying the foundation for Egyptian civilization and its military system. 

I' ock art from herders in the Eastern Desert also provides evidence of warfare 

I vpt by at least the fourth millennium, and probably earlier. A recently dis- 

red vase from Abydos Tomb U-239 {early fourth millennium} depicts four 

ii c armed warriors with ostrich feathers and animal-tail loincloths executing a 

Hid of prisoners (GP 79). A similar mace-armed warrior in a boat is depicted in 

.i rt from near contemporary Wadi Abu Wasil (GP 79). These figures are 

d and armed quite similarly to the figures on the famous "Hunter's Palette", 

n ; from a few centuries later (GP 96), indicating a widespread use of a com- 

ii set of tribal military equipment: loincloth, feathered headdress, tails of bulls 

Other animals as belts, with weapons including spears, bows, maces, and axes, 

I .i tribal banner or totem. All of this evidence implies that low-level tribal 

irfare was at least occasionally a part of the life of Egyptian hunting clans, an 

i p rotation bolstered by anthropological analogy. 

Neolithic Mesopotamia {9000-3500} 20 

I with the rest of the Near East, there is little evidence for warfare in Neolithic 

lopotamia. The Epipaleolithic period {16,000-9000} is characterized by small 

i tging bands scattered unevenly throughout the region. The standard tool kit 

In ded obsidian blades acquired from eastern Anatolia, indicating some long- 

i i. ii ice contacts and exchanges, even if indirect. Most of the excavated sites from 

1 lis period are in the uplands or highlands. In part this may be because the earliest 

i u ulture developed around the regions where wild wheat and barley grew 

u ui ally with normal rainfall. On the other hand, the earliest sites and settlements 

ii the river valleys are buried in three meters or more of silt accumulated over the 

past eight thousand years, are now beneath the water table (CAM 51-2), and are 

1 1 ii is largely inaccessible to archaeologists. 

flic development of incipient agriculture and domestication in the Early Aceramic 

'■olithic {9000-7000} began in northern Mesopotamia, Syria, and Anatolia, 

here wild wheat, barley, goats, and sheep facilitated the transition. Small Neolithic 

i!'.i i( ultural villages of the period, such as Jarmo (EA 3:208—9), had only a few 

hundred people, practicing a mixture of herding (sheep and goats), farming 

i wheat, barley, lentils), and hunting with both flint and imported obsidian weapons. 

A number of developments occurred during the Pottery Neolithic phase 

' 000 5000) As discussed on p. 18, pottery allowed storage of food surpluses, 

Blowing people more easily to remain at a single site all year, along with increasing 

ilu- population. Agriculture was becoming more prominent as a source of food, 

fin hunting was still widely practiced. A number of important sites such as Tell (I A !:4f>0). Tope (Jawra (EA 5:183-5), and Samarra {6000-5000} 

i I A M / \) have been excavated from this period, revealing small villages of a few 

luiiultcd prnplr In (he sixth millennium we sec the beginnings of monumental 



building, mainly small temples. During this period we also see the development of 
several zones with distinctive pottery styles (CAM 49, 53). The military implica- 
tions of this fact are unclear, since pottery styles cannot be translated with con- 
fidence into either ethnic or political boundaries. None the less, it is clear that 
during this period there are ongoing contacts throughout Mesopotamia and Syria. 
It is during this late Neolithic period that we begin to see the first evidence of 
warfare in Mesopotamia. Most prominent is the fortification of the site of Tell 
al-Sawwan near modern Samarra, where around 6000 a thick brick wall and a 
three-meter- wide moat were constructed to defend the settlement (EA 4:473). 
Clay sling bullets were discovered at Hassuna, but these could have been used for 
hunting rather than war. Trinket metallurgy begins to be seen in Mesopotamia in 
this period. 

Ubaid {5000-4000} and early Uruk {4000-3500} periods 

The final phase of the Neolithic era in Mesopotamia is called the Ubaid period, 
after a shared style of pottery and material culture that spreads throughout much of 
Mesopotamia and Syria. Ubaid-style pottery was also discovered on the north-east 
coast of Arabia, and in Qatar and Bahrain, indicating that ocean-going vessels 
existed during the period, initiating the Persian Gulf trade which would culminate 
in the military expeditions discussed in Chapters Two and Three. This period 
shows clear evidence of increasing settlement size, social stratification, inter- 
regional contacts, and monumental building. The impressive temple complex at 
Eridu in Sumer shows that communities had the capacity for monumental build- 
ing during this period (EA 2:258—9; CAM 52), as do the large buildings at Arpa- 
chiyeh with stone walls 1.5 meters thick. 

None the less, there is still sparse evidence for either fortification or war during 
this period. Despite its magnificent temple complex, Eridu seems to have been 
unfortified in the fifth millennium. Eridu may have been a sacrosanct ceremonial 
center during this period, supported by many surround villages and towns, rather 
than a politically oriented city-state. Some have suggested that some of the 
legendary prediluvian kings of the Sumerian Kinglist may have been associated 
with Eridu in this period (C 1/2:1 07). There is some evidence of war: at the end 
of the Ubaid period the "Round House" at Tepe Gawra, which seems to have 
served as a citadel, was destroyed by fire, possibly in war (EA 5:184b). By around 
4000 we also see the shift to the Chalcolithic period, where tools and other large 
objects begin to be made from arsenic-copper. A copper spearhead, the oldest yet 
discovered, was found in Mesopotamia dating to the early fifth millennium (EA 
4:3b). A painting on a bowl from Tepe Jowi shows a man with a bow in one hand 
and possibly a mace in the other; he wears a loincloth and a feather in his hair 
(AANE §186). Thus in the Early Uruk period there were a number of behind- 
the-scenes developments which laid the foundation for the crossing of the military 
threshold in Mesopotamia that occurred in the Late Uruk period {3500-3000}, 
discussed in Chapter Two. 


Early Dynastic Mesopotamia 

\ Mesopotamia and Egypt were the heartlands of the great river valley eco- 

i social and political systems that produced the earliest advanced civilizations 

• ■rid history. From the military perspective, these two river valleys both wit- 

i ! the development of intimately intertwined militant religion and kingship, 

inifesting their warlike ideologies by the creation of martial art and inscriptions. 

igh warfare in the Near East had been going on for centuries, it is with the 

i written and artistic records of Egypt and Mesopotamia that true military his- 

y begins. This chapter will examine the rise of the military states in Mesopo- 

• tii i.i. These developments should be compared with comparable contemporary 

vrnts in Early Dynastic and Old Kingdom Egypt (see Chapters Twelve and 

I (in teen). 

I he following chart (Table 2.1) shows the major periods of Early Mesopotarnian 
nstnry. The exact dates for the division between the different phases and subphases 
the Early Dynastic period are interpreted differently by different scholars 
ompare with AI 502-3 and C1/2-.998-1001). 

Table 2.1: The major periods of Early Mesopotarnian history 

Late Uruk 
Jamdat Nasr 
Early Dynastic I 
Early Dynastic II 
Early Dynastic IIIA 
Early Dynastic IIIB 


The Late Uruk (Pre-Dynastic) period {3500-3100} 1 

number of developments in the Late Uruk period collectively formed the cata- 

i whit ii caused Mesopotarnian civilization to definitively cross the military 

thtcshold. Hi esc im I tided the urban revolution, an increase in the size and amount 

"i monumental building leading to fortifications, the development of ideological 

ut, miii Ii ol n with iiiilii.ii v ilii'incs, and the rise ol social stratification with 




domination by martial kings and elites. The formulation of a complex adminis- 
trative organization, capable of collecting and dispersing surpluses and running a 
city-state, laid the foundation for kings capable of mobilizing armies in the thou- 
sands of men and keeping them in the field for months. The invention of proto- 
writing (from mnemonic accounting devices), which occurred in Uruk around 
3400, was a key component of the new bureaucratic state (PAE 58-67; EA 5:352- 
8). In addition to allowing an expanded and more efficient bureaucracy, writing 
would eventually permit the state ideology, both religious and military to be 
recorded and preserved, thus creating military history. 

The city-states of the Late Uruk and subsequent periods were both quantita- 
tively and qualitatively different from the towns of the Neolithic period, The shift 
of agriculture from the rain-fed lands around Mesopotamia into the river valleys 
had a significant impact on population growth. As irrigation developed in the river 
valleys agricultural productivity and surpluses expanded, in part because of higher 
productivity per acre and in part because of multiple crops per year in the hot 
climates of Mesopotamia. At the same time the rivers allowed the easy collection 
and transportation of these surpluses into one central location. The combination 
of irrigation and river transport meant that cities were no longer dependent solely 
on the land immediately surrounding the city, but could collect surpluses from 
tracts of land all up and down the river system. The overall impact was to allow the 
possibility of having cities many times larger than had been possible during the 
Neolithic period, creating the first city-states. 

An examination of city size during the urban revolution gives a sense of the 
overall growth of population. In the late Ubaid period {4500-4000} there were 
very few settlements as large as ten hectares, which could have held a maximum 
population of around 2000. By the Early Uruk period {4000-3500}, Uruk 
(Warka, Erech, Unu) 2 encompassed 70 hectares, two other cities were 50 hectares, 
and a final two 30 hectares each (M = CAM 58-9). The population in these cities 
might have ranged from 7000 to 20,000. By the Late Uruk period {3500-4000} 
Uruk had reached more than 200 hectares in area, and was the greatest city of the 
age, with a population as high as 40,000 to 50,000 - twenty times greater than 
the largest towns of the Neolithic period. Cities of this size could probably field 
armies of several thousand men, and perhaps up to 5000 with maximum effort, 
compared to the dozens or hundreds of men who composed earlier Neolithic 
tribal armies. We must also note that the great cities that were developing in the 
Late Uruk had a number of villages and small towns as satellites, which were 
politically integrated into the city-state and which supplied some of their surplus 
resources to the central city. However, as the great cities continued to grow in size, 
the number of smaller villages began to decrease rapidly; presumably their popu- 
lations migrated into the large centers. Part of the reason for this might have been 
the greater security inside the great cities, pointing to increasing warfare in the 

These new cities were ruled by a hierarchy ol priests and kings with the 
majority of wealth and power in their hands, though thry were always dependent 



D (own councils for making major decisions. They organized a central hier- 
H I ncal government overseeing a stratified society. A large percentage of the peo- 
ple of the new Mesopotamian city-states were no longer directly engaged in 
I [culture designed to produced the food to be consumed by their own families. 
I ' ii her, they increasingly entered non-food-producing occupations such as priests, 
i ibes, craftsmen and merchants. The development of economic specialization 
ive rise to military specialists, who would develop into military professionals, 
lues, and ultimately martial aristocracies. Monarchical rule was not absolute, 
quiring advice and consent by the city council of elders. None the less, the new 
ings of Mesopotamia had far more military resources at hand than any earlier 
niers. One of the primary functions of these new kings (lugal: "big man") was that 
i warlord, to protect and expand the power of the city-state. 3 

The centralization of power in the hands of allied royal and priestly classes was 

ociated with the emergence of a divinely mandated martial ideology, Using 

heir new wealth and surplus resources, the kings and priests embarked on a 

1 inihoyant program of monumental building of immense temples, palaces and city 

fortifications. The most lavish building projects were temples, such as the great 

mna ("House of Heaven") temple complex at Uruk (CAM 61-3). None the 

. massive monumental fortifications were also built, such as the great mud- 

brick wall of Uruk, built around 3000, which had a circumference of six miles; its 

i ii is can still be seen 5000 years later. By the Early Dynastic period all Mesopo- 

imian cities were fortified with such huge mud-brick walls. 

I Hiring this period a royal ideology of divine kingship developed in which the 

ing was chosen by the gods as his representative on earth; this could sometimes 

•in ompass the idea of the king as son of god, or as a god incarnate (EM 260-74). 

When the king acted as warlord, he was acting under the express command of the 

jods as revealed through divination and oracles. The gods themselves were the 

In mate arbiters of war. It is probably not unimportant that the patron goddess of 

1 fruk - where we first see evidence of this new ideology - was Inanna ("Lady of 

I leaven", the Akkadian Ishtar), patroness of love and war. In the absence of early 

1 1 it cm texts - all proto-writing of the Late Uruk period is administrative - the 

bvelopment of an ideology of martial kingship can only be seen in the new styles 

"I martial art. 

The "Priest-King" 4 

I he earliest Mesopotamian art was largely ornamental and often abstract. This 
t\ fpe of art continued throughout the Late Uruk period, during which we also find 
i he first ideologically-rich martial art, from both sculpture and cylinder seals. The 
use of cylinder seals in Mesopotamia dates back to the fourth millennium. They 
were made from small two-to-five centimeter long cylinders of stone, similar to 
large oblong beads, which were rolled on wet clay as a type of seal to show own- 
riship, rathci like a medieval signet ring. The art on cylinder seals is often called 
i'Jvpin ait. \vhn h provides us with a number of important martial scenes as sources 



for military history. Originally designed simply as a stamp to indicate identity and 
ownership, they rapidly developed into an extraordinarily sophisticated and ele- 
gant art form, like gem-cutting and cameos in medieval and Renaissance Europe. 5 

A problem with interpreting glyptic art for the military historian is that much 
of it focuses on mythological and religious themes, creating a methodological 
question concerning the reliability of the weapons depicted: are the weapons and 
combat techniques authentic to the contemporary age, or are they stylized repre- 
sentations of archaic weapons in contemporary retellings of ancient myths. An 
analogous problem might be if an archaeologist were to insist that twenty-first- 
century warriors used swords in combat because he found depictions in twenty- 
first-century Christian churches and religious art of the archangel Michael wield- 
ing a sword. Thus, if a Middle Bronze cylinder seal shows a god wielding a mace 
in a mythological scene, we cannot be certain that the mace was actually used in 
real combat during the Middle Bronze Age, since the scene may be a stylized 
anachronistic representation which originated centuries earlier, with the god 
becoming iconographically standardized as wielding a mace in subsequent art. 
Another problem with glyptic art is that many of the cylinder seals are quite small, 
measuring only one or two inches. Although many of the scenes depicted are of 
extraordinary detail and quality, many others are quite abstract, and it is often dif- 
ficult to interpret the details of weapons. 

Most art of early Mesopotamia was religious in nature, and presumably Late 
Uruk martial art was also fundamentally religious in purpose. None the less, the 
glorification of the martial deeds of the gods, legendary heroes, or kings clearly 
points to a fundamental martial ideology as a significant indicator that Mesopota- 
mia had crossed the military threshold by the mid-fourth millennium. This new 
martial art is exemplified by the emergence of the "Priest-king", an icono- 
graphically stylized figure of a tall bearded man wearing a kilt or long robe, a flat 
round cap, with his shoulder-length hair in a bun. The image of the Priest-king 
appears in Uruk, as well as Susa II iconography in Elam. There are a number of 
different scenes: 

• Hunting: armed with a bow, hunting either lions (AFC 22) or bulls (AFC 23); 

• Armed with a bow and a long, mace-like weapon resting on his shoulder 
(PAE 68/3); 

• Two siege scenes: both show the Priest-king armed with a bow, shooting 
enemies while besieging a city. The first shows prisoners with arrows pro- 
truding from their legs fleeing from the Priest-king. The city is represented by 
a wall and a large palace or temple behind it. The building has three curved 
horn-like lines coming from its side which have been interpreted as either 
actual architectural features or a divine aura around a temple; they could also, 
on the other hand, represent flames coming from the burning of the besieged 
citadel, palace, or temple. This scene could represent an attack on an enemy 
city, or perhaps the ritual slaughter of captured prisoners before the temple 
of the gods (AFC 24; FAR 68/1 , 70; II ; ; I \) fhe second shows,) number of 



bound prisoners around the city, with one man on the ramparts and another 
ill ling from the ramparts; this is clearly a siege scene, but the building lacks 
the horns/flames (PAE 68/2). These represent the earliest depictions of sieges 
id history; 

• Boat scene: the Priest-king sits in a large boat holding a mace in one hand and 
rope in the other to which are tied two kneeling bound prisoners. This points 
i < > the military use of boats by at least the late fourth millennium; 

• Execution of prisoners: two different scenes show the king armed with a six- 
foot-long broad-headed thrusting spear, held point downward, overseeing the 
torture or execution of bound prisoners (#1 = AFC 23; AAM §L-3; #2 = 
PAE 68/5); 

Ritual activities (AFC 25, §8; AAM §L— 1— 2): making offerings at a temple 
i AFC §9). 

Priest-king, armed variously with spear, mace, and bow, is thus shown in a 

hole sequence of martial activities, including hunting, fighting enemies, assault- 

fortified cities, transporting captives by boat, and torturing or executing bound 

i .oners. 

I he problem of interpreting the Priest-king is one of context: is he intended to 

•• present a god or a mythical figure? Does each image represent the same great 

i oiRjiieror king? Or is it a stylized figure representing a number of different kings, 

nli of whom is depicted in the same way? The kings of Egypt were always shown 

i itylistically similar images, and it is generally impossible to tell which king is 

H presented without an inscription. Does each scene represent a separate discrete 

iistorical event, or are they idealized depictions? Does the distribution of the 

I'nest-king iconography represent the zone of political domination of a single 

i. iu\ or is it merely that the Priest-king iconographic style was copied in several 

[liferent politically independent regions? Unfortunately, in the absence of histor- 

il texts from this period, it is impossible to answer these questions with certainty. 

A military maximalist interpretation of the Priest-king would argue that the art 

depicts the real military activities of one or more actual kings who extended 

I fruk's military power into southern Mesopotamia. The appearance of the Priest- 
; in;', iconography in Elam represents the extension of Uruk military power into 

I I iii legion as well. All of this may be part of what is called the "Uruk expansion" 
ist-e pp. 40—42). Minimally, the Priest-king iconography demonstrates that martial 

ingship was ideologically highly developed in Uruk by the late fourth millen- 
niun]; Mesopotamia had clearly crossed the military threshold. 

Other Late Uruk martial art {3500-3000} 

Not .ill m.irti;il art of the Late Uruk period was specifically associated with the 
tit'uir of the Pi lest king, although the themes were precisely parallel. Hunting was 
i in i|oi martial theme in Late Uruk art. The most famous is the Uruk lion hunt, 
showing the Fnrst king with a how m\(\ another man with a spear battling four 



lions. 6 A similar scene shows the king with a bow followed by a servant with quiver 
and arrows; the king is hunting bulls and an onager (AFC 23; AAM §A— 4; FI 
§683). Another cylinder seal shows a man with a bow hunting an antelope (AAM 
§A— 2). Hunting scenes do not necessarily point to warfare, but they do show a 
desire to emphasize royal prowess with weapons; the theme of the martial hunter- 
king endures in the Near East through the Sassanid period 7 and into Islamic times. 
The importance of the bow in Late Uruk Mesopotamia is emphasized in two 
other cylinder seals. One shows the king at target practice with a bow, shooting a 
boar target mounted on a pole (FI §682). Another shows an early arms factory 
making bows and bronze daggers, and perhaps javelins as well (FI §742). Individual 
combat is depicted showing a man grappling with another and stabbing him with a 
short javelin or dagger (AFC §22). A siege scene shows defenders on the city 
ramparts throwing stones at attackers who appear to be torturing or executing a 
prisoner (FI §748). Other scenes also show the beating or execution of bound 
prisoners (FI §746); another shows kneeling bound prisoners attacked by vultures 
or perhaps mythic winged creatures (FI §887). The marshaling of troops or vassal 
clans in preparation for battle or in victory celebrations may be depicted in a scene 
showing men with banners with large balls on top, seated before an enthroned 
figure (FI §15). 

The "Uruk Expansion" {3500-3000} 8 

The Late Uruk period also witnessed a phenomenon known as the Uruk Expan- 
sion, which is characterized archaeologically by the spread of a similar style of 
material culture of pottery, bowls, clay tablets, and cylinder seals from Sumer 
(southern Mesopotamia) to far beyond its original core zone; during this period 
Uruk-style material culture spreads to northern Mesopotamia, Syria and western 
Iran. The cause of this expansion seems to have been largely economic. Mesopo- 
tamia has few natural resources besides clay, reeds, and grain. The massive popu- 
lation growth and high demand for prestige and luxury products by the new 
emerging Sumerian elites created an extensive search outside the Mesopotamian 
valley for metal (initially copper, then tin, lead, silver, and gold; ME 143-76), 
stone (for building, and semi-precious stones like lapis lazuli for ornamentation; 
ME 177-216), and building timber. The Uruk expansion occurred during most of 
the Late Uruk period, but rapidly declined by the thirty-first century Some 
Sumerian centers, like Habuba Kabira in Syria, were simply abandoned. In others, 
like Susa, Sumerian cultural influence also declined rapidly. 

The Uruk expansion took three forms. First, and most intense, new colonies 
were founded and occupied, largely by Sumerians. Second, Sumerian merchants 
and craftsmen, and perhaps other colonists as well, took up residence in already 
existing indigenous towns in northern Mesopotamia, Syria and Elam, bringing 
with them Sumerian technology, culture, and other social practices. Third, 
many cities on the highland fringes were regularly visited by Sumerians or were 
indirectly influenced by secondary exchanges. The spread of Sumerian influence 



! i olonies seems to have developed along major trade routes to high-demand 
-mce areas. The demand for natural resources in exchange for luxury and 
Stige items from Sumer created a shared interest between Sumerian merchants 
d peoples in the resource rich zones. The major Uruk Expansion trade routes 
lud " 

led (HE1 14-18; M = CAM 64-5): 

Elam, with Susa as a major colonial center; 

NW Iran, with Godin Tepe as center on the Lapis Lazuli (and later Tin) Road 
to Afghanistan; 

The Tigris route via Nineveh and Tepe Gawra; 

North to Tell Brak in the Khabur triangle for copper, gold, and silver from 

The Euphrates route to Tell Habuba in Syria for cedars, other timber, and 

The Euphrates route, with extensions southwest to Egypt via Canaan or the 
Mediterranean Sea; Sumerian-style motifs have been found on some Pre- 
dynastic Egyptian artifacts, though the precise implications of these connec- 
tions are disputed; 
Persian Gulf route to Bahrain and Oman. 

I he intensity of trade and Sumerian influence varied in each of these areas, with 

the greatest evidence for direct Sumerian colonization being around Habuba 

Kabira in Syria and in Susa in Elam. 

From the perspective of military history the important question is what role, if 

my, did military conquest play in the Uruk expansion. The essential question 
Is whether the expansion of Sumerian cultural influences and material culture can be 
explained in purely social and economic terms, or do we need to posit a military 
i omponent? The evidence is insufficient for a certain answer. It seems that a 
military component is not absolutely necessary, but the evidence fits more nicely 
together if we assume that Sumerian armies were involved to some degree in the 
Uruk expansion. It seems likely that warfare was a component in the expansion, 
but that the phenomenon was not primarily military in nature. This is reflected 
most clearly in the fact that some of the Sumerian colonies were strongly fortified; 
I labuba Kabira in Syria is the most striking example, with three-meter- thick 
mud-brick walls with numerous projecting square towers and strongly fortified 
gates (AS 190-7). Sumerian military occupation of Susa and other parts of Elam is 
also a possibility, but there are also arguments against this (PAE 52-69). Some have 
argued that the Sumerian military system was not yet logistically advanced enough 
to conquer Susa. But the distance from Uruk to Susa is only about 160 miles, 
requiring a campaign of only 10-14 days. Susa could also have been approached by 
the Karkheh river. Contemporary Egyptian armies found operations of this sort 
completely feasible (see Chapter Twelve). The artistic sources mentioned above 
demonstrate that militarism was a fundamental part of Sumerian kingship at this 
time, making it likely that international relations between Sumerian kings and 



outside peoples would have had a strong military edge to them; this was certainly 
the case a few centuries later. 

Unfortunately, in the absence of written texts, all of this remains speculative. 
The problem of interpreting both the military significance of the Priest-king ico- 
nography and the military significance of the Uruk expansion are examples of the 
difficulty of doing military history in the absence of texts. 

Legends of the Uruk period 

We have no historical texts for the Uruk period. On the other hand, later 
Sumerian legendary recollections may reflect some of the historical situation in the 
Uruk age. The most important historical tradition is the Sumerian King-list. 9 The 
precise significance and meaning of the King-list for fourth-millennium history is 
uncertain. It was clearly composed in its final form in the Isin-Larsa period (see 
Chapter Six) as a propaganda tool for the legitimization of the kings of Isin. The 
text can be divided into three phases: the antediluvian kings who ruled before the 
"great flood" (KS 328; Cl/2: 107-8), a group of protohistoric kings (KS 328- 
329), a few of whom can be confirmed by other inscriptions, and the historic 
kings, whose names are also known from other sources (KS 329-40). The ante- 
diluvian kings have reigns of tens of thousands of years; after the flood the proto- 
historic rulers reign for hundreds of years, while the historic rulers have ordinary 
human reigns seemingly based on actual chronological information. 

rron: 1 e mil a y perspective, a i imber of things ai ; important to note. First, 
kingship "descends from heaven" (KS 328); it is a divinely ordained institution. 
Second, kingship is bestowed by the gods on a certain city, and can be taken away 
from that city as well. Thus "kingship", or perhaps what we would call the hege- 
mony of Sumer, is transferred from city to city by the gods. The mechanism by 
which kingship is transferred is warfare. The King-list repeatedly uses standardized 
formulae to describe shifts in the balance of power in Sumer: "city-X was defeated 
[in war]" or "city-X was abandoned [by the gods]" or "city-X was smitten with 
weapons" after which "its kingship was carried off to city-Y". Thus, when the 
gods granted victory in battle, they were revealing whom they had chosen to be 
the new hegemon of Sumer. 

The Sumerian King-list mentions a great flood, but when this was thought to 
have occurred relative to our modern chronological system cannot be determined. 
But two things are clear about kingship in antediluvian times. First, kingship passed 
between five different cities before the flood; each city in succession lost its 
hegemony when it was "abandoned" by the gods, and the "kingship was carried 
off" to another city. In military terms I take this to imply that Sumerian myths and 
legends remember that warfare and power struggles among Sumerian city-states 
occurred in the mythic antediluvian times, which historically are probably recol- 
lections of the fourth millennium. Second, after the great flood, kingship was 
re-established by the gods and given to the rulers of the city of Kish, at which time 
we move from legend into the very beginning of the pro to histm n ,il period. 



Early Dynastic I {2900-2650} 


The end of the Uruk expansion occurred in the protohistoric period. The precise 
causes are uncertain, but a shift in the balance of power in Sumer itself, and 
increasing military conflict between rival Sumerian city-states, may have been 
contributing factors, perhaps related to the legendary establishment of hegemonic 
kingship at the city-state of Kish (EM 28-32; KS 328). 

A number of characteristics of Early Dynastic Mesopotamia must be emphasized. 
One problem with Early Dynastic military history is that we do not have firm regnal 
years for most of the kings. We can generally tell the relative order of kings for a 
number of cities, and we can often determine synchronisms — that a certain king of one 
city was a contemporary of the king of another. But we do not know the length of 
reigns for almost any kings other than some of those mentioned in the Sumerian 
King-list, which is extremely unreliable for the Early Dynastic period. This means 
we can place the kings in order and determine if they were early or late in a given 
century, but, for the most part, we cannot give precise regnal years. In the following 
discussion I will give dates for most kings, but it should be emphasized that these 
are quite speculative and should be used only as broad chronological indicators. 

Politically Sumer in the Early Dynastic period was divided into a number of 
separate and feuding independent city-states engaged in complex patterns of 
cooperation, alliance, conflict, and war. 11 During much of the Early Dynastic 
period there was endemic warfare between these city-states, rather like classical 
Greece. The scale of this warfare was in many ways rather limited. Umma and 
Lagash, whose ongoing feud is the best documented (RH), are only about twenty- 
five miles apart. The entire area encompassed by the vast majority of Early 
Dynastic military sources is only 300 miles across. The greatest distance of a 
known military campaign in the Early Dynastic period, a conflict between Kish 
and Elam (PI 35), amounted to a distance of no more than 160 miles. Most mili- 
tary operations occurred within a few days' march of the home city. 

There was a great deal of cultural, linguistic, and religious unity among the 
Sumerians, despite their political disunity. We are provided with only a highly 
stylized legendary account of the history of this period in the King-list, which seems 
to suggest a succession of city-states. In fact, synchronisms from other contemporary 
records indicate that many of the dynasties mentioned in the King-list clearly 
overlap rather than being sequential. It appears that, whatever else was occurring 
in power politics in Mesopotamia, only one king was able to claim the title of 
"king of Kish" at a time. This did not mean he ruled all of Mesopotamia, but that 
he was the first among equals; I will describe this ruler as the hegemon, and his rule 
as hegemony. This hegemony also seems to have ben associated with religious respon- 
sibilities of maintaining the Tummal temple of the god Ninlil at Nippur (KS 46-9). 
An inscription describing which kings undertook repairs of that shrine broadly 
matches the patterns of Sumerian hegemonic kingship as described in the King-list. 

To properly contextualize the Sumerian martial inscriptions of the Early 
Dynastic period, it must be remembered that the fundamental purpose ol Sinner inn 

I ! 


■ i lptions was to commemorate dedications and gifts to the gods. Most of the 

i lptions are almost always associated with giving gifts of land, precious things, 

temple buildings to the gods. The inscriptional evidence does not permit us to 

rite a complete military history of Early Dynastic Sumer; rather we are given 

irnerous snapshots of individual conflicts and military incidents. None the less, 

have enough data to give us a good sense of warfare in the Early Dynastic Age. 

Kish {c. 3100-2700?} (EA 3:298-300; DANE 171) 

i ording to Sumerian legend, the period scholars now call Early Dynastic I was 
-Miniated by the hegemony of the kings of Kish (KS 328). Throughout the 
merian period the title "king of Kish" (lugal Kish) meant hegemon of Sumer, 

I every warlord claiming universal domination of Mesopotamia adopted "king 
Kish" as one of his titles (PI 37, 40, 102). We cannot know for certain the 
( lse period of the hegemony of Kish. The King-list itself gives each of the 

ilr is reigns of hundreds of years, and the dynasty as a whole a duration of 24,510 

us. The last two rulers on the Kish king-list, Enmebaragesi and his son Agga 

I \1 28—32; KS 238; PI 18) are known from other records to have been con- 

uporaries of Gilgamesh, king of Uruk, who dates to around 2700 (DANE 128- 

II we assume that each of the twenty-three kings of Kish were historical figures, 
K >wever mythically remembered, who ruled for an average of around twenty years 

h, the entire period of Kish hegemony in Sumer would have lasted somewhat 

i 400 years. Since the dynasty's hegemony ended around 2700 under the last 

king, Agga, this would place the beginning of the Kish dynasty around 3100. Of 

ourse, such numbers are very rough and can only give us the broadest sense of 


Militarily, little is known of the period of Kish, which has left scant inscriptions 

M martial art - only a fragment of two warriors and an image of a bound prisoner 

i war (AFC 89—92). Excavations of royal tombs from Kish show the use of metal 

apons and the burial of several early war-carts (EA 3:298; see pp. 132-41). 

I i "in the persistence of the title "king of Kish" as the rough equivalent of 

mperor" in later Mesopotamia, we can assume their hegemony was substantial 

imi at least part of the period. A few of their rulers have left us brief military hints. 

I i.i na, the eleventh from the end of the dynasty {c. 2900}, was said to have "made 

linn all the lands" (KS 328), which may refer to some type of political hegemony 

i'lit could equally be a ritual or religious phenomenon — he is also said to have 

k ascend[ed] into heaven" (KS 328; 0/2:109— 10), reflecting the connection of 

Smner inn kingship with the gods. The later legend of Etana gives a more detailed 

i< * ount of this (MFM 189-202). The legend records the founding of the city by 

i In- ",<uls, and their primordial preparation for its defense: 

The Sehitti | seven warrior gods] barred the gates [of Kish] against armies. 
| I lie Ammiiaki gods] barred them against [other| settled peoples. 
I he hnr.i |j..chK| would patrol the city. (Mh'M 190) 



Enmebaragesi {c. 2700} (PI 18; 0/2:110) is said to have "plundered the 
weapons of the land of Elam" (KS 328; PAE 87) some 160 miles to the east. This is 
the first textual reference to war between Sumer and the neighboring Elam, indi- 
cating the logistical reach of Sumerian armies of the period, Enmebaragesi was 
succeeded by his son Agga, under whom "Kish was defeated [in battle by Gilgamesh 
of Uruk] , and its kingship was carried off to [the temple] Eanna [in the city 7 of 
Uruk]" (KS 328). 

Gilgamesh and the rise of Uruk {c. 2780-2560} 

The shift of hegemony in Sumer from Kish to Uruk illustrates a problem in 
Sumerian legendary historiography. Later Sumerian tradition is unequivocal in 
attributing Uruk's rise to hegemony to Gilgamesh (EOG 143-8), but the King-list 
gives five kings ruling before Gilgamesh (KS 328—9); presumably Gilgamesh s 
predecessors before the rise of Uruk to hegemony The dynasty begins four gen- 
erations before Gilgamesh with "Meskiaggasher, son of [the god] Utu" {c. 2780- 
2760} who "entered the sea and ascended the mountains" (KS 328-9). If this deed 
is historical rather than mythical, it may imply that Meskiaggasher was perhaps the 
first known Sumerian king to take to the sea in war, and raided into the Zagros 
mountains for timber, metal, or stone. 

Three of the early legendary kings of Uruk became epic heroes, perhaps 
because of early development of a heroic court poetry centered on martial deeds 
in Uruk. However that may be, Enmerkar {c. 2760-2740} and his son Lugalbanda 
{2740—2720} were attributed in Sumerian legend with an invasion and siege of 
Aratta, a mythical and wealthy land to the north-east of Mesopotamia, the source 
of tin and lapis lazuli. 12 It is generally thought that Aratta was in central or eastern 
Iran, or perhaps Afghanistan (ME 12—4). We need not suppose that Enmerkar and 
Lugalbanda actually campaigned to Afghanistan, but rather than Meskiaggasher's 
"ascent to the mountains" and Enmerkar's siege of Aratta probably reflect 
legendary recollections of Early Dynastic campaigns into the Zagros highlands in 
western Iran to secure the immediate source of lapis lazuli and tin, rather than 
their original source in Afghanistan. 

The greatest warrior-king of early Uruk, however, was Gilgamesh {c. 2700- 
2680}, who was destined to become the premier epic hero of the Near East, and 
whose tales were told and retold for the next two-and-a-half millennia (EOG). 
The military aspects of the Gilgamesh epic are discussed elsewhere, since they 
probably reflect warfare in the age of their actual composition rather than in the 
time of the historic Gilgamesh (see pp. 126—8). It is quite certain that Gilgamesh 
was a historical ruler, but it is difficult to disentangle the epic-hero from the historic 
king. He is attributed with building the massive ten-kilometer circuit of walls around 
Uruk (CAM 60; EA 5:294-8; C 1/2:110-12). Like his predecessors, Gilgamesh 
the epic hero is also a wanderer in search of cedarwood from I e ban on (EOG). 

The most historical part of the epic tradition of ( iilgamesh m.i\ be the talc ol 
the defeat of Agga (Akka), the last of the hegemonic 1 in- ■ >i ' Agra seni 



to Uruk demanding that Gilgamesh submit to Kish and pay tribute. Gil- 
h convened the "assembly of his city's elders" for a consultation. Gilgamesh 
■ »sed, "let us not submit to the house of Kish, let us wage war!" But the elders 
Hi red and refused to give their consent. Ignoring the will of the city council, 
iinesh instead "placed his trust in the [war] goddess Inanna, took no notice of 
I his city's elders said", going directly to the "assembly of the city's young 
n " of military age, who supported the call for war: 

You are their king and their warrior! 

( > crusher of heads [with a mace in battle], 

Prince beloved of [the god] An 

When he [Agga king of Kish] arrives why be afraid? 

I he army [of Kish] is small 

And a rabble [of untrained troops] at the rear, 

lis men will not withstand us! (EOG 145-6) 

• nh the young warriors of the city aroused, Gilgamesh prepared for war: 

Now make ready the equipment and arms of battle, 

I et weapons of war return to your grasp! 

Let them create terror and a dread aura, 

So when he [Agga of Kish] arrives fear of me overwhelms him, 

So his good sense is confounded and his judgment undone! (EOG 146) 

Agga is quick to respond to this challenge to the Hegemony of Kish. "It was 
.i five days, it was not ten days, [when] Enmebaragesi 's son Agga [king of Kish] 
id siege to Uruk" (EOG 146). Gilgamesh sends one of his "royal bodyguard" to 
eotiate, but he is captured and beaten by Agga, whereupon: 

( hlgamesh climbed up on the wall [of Uruk] 

I lis dread aura overwhelmed those [too] old and [too] young [to fight] 

But put weapons of war in the hands of Uruk's young men. 

At the door of the city gate they stood [marshaled] in the roadway, 

I nkidu [Gilgamesh's companion] went forth from the city gate 

| leading the army of Uruk into battle against Agga]. 

( hlgamesh raised his head on the rampart 

A myriad | of the enemy] did fall [to defeat] 

A myriad [of Uruk] did rise [to victory] 

A myriad did thereby roll [dead] in the dust, 

I [e |Gilgamcsh| cut down the horns of the [royal] boat [of Agga] 

In the midst of his army he took prisoner Agga, king of Kish. (EOG 147-8) 

With Agga as prisoner, (hlgamesh proceeded to negotiate from a position of 
i Ai-.-.i Im.ilK ar.ieetl that "I huk, the smithy of the gods, its great rampart, a 



cloudbank resting on the earth, is given into your charge" (EOG 149); in other 
words Uruk became independent of Kishite vassalage. In return Gilgamesh set 
Agga free. This account is interesting in reflecting the fact that the king did not 
have absolute power, but had to consult the city councils before making war. The 
old men of the council of elders cautioned against war, while the council of the 
young warriors carried the day for war. 

The predominance of Uruk in Sumer was said to have continued for perhaps a 
century {c. 2680-2560}, but no military details are known for the subsequent 
rulers. The period of Uruk hegemony corresponds roughly with what archae- 
ologists call the Early Dynastic II period {2650—2550}. By the end of the first 
dynasty of Uruk, their hegemony was rapidly passing to the city of Ur. 

The First Dynasty of Ur, and the royal tombs {c. 2 5 60-2 45 0} 14 

According to the King-list, the city of Ur came to hegemony in Sumer after the 
first Dynasty of Uruk. Royal inscriptions of this period provide little information 
of military matters beyond mere mentions of the names of kings, which none the 
less have the merit of confirming the basic historicity of the Sumerian King-list, at 
least for this period (PI 97-101; KS 329). 

From the perspective of the military historian, the spectacular treasures from 
the royal tombs of Ur include a number of artifacts of the greatest importance. 
The cemetery of Ur contained hundreds of tombs, of which sixteen are called 
"Royal Tombs" because of the richness of their content and because of human 
sacrifices buried with the kings and queens, presumably to accompany them into 
the afterlife. The absence of inscriptions makes it impossible to know for certain 
who was buried in the tombs, but a tentative list has been reconstructed (AFC 96). 
The tombs thus cannot be precisely dated, but are generally placed in late Early 
Dynastic II through early Early Dynastic IIIA, around 2550-2450. 

A number of weapons and other military artifacts have been preserved in the 
royal tombs of Ur, which generally reflect precisely the weapons depicted on 
contemporary martial art. The weapons include: copper daggers (RTU §147—8); a 
stunning ceremonial dagger in gold (AFC §54; RTU §146; AM §xv; AW 1:140-1); 
spike-like javelins (RTU 162, §140; AW 1:134); broad-headed spears (RTU 162, 
§141-2); and socketed axeheads (AW 1:136-7; RTU §149-51); no archery 
equipment was found in the tombs. There were also weapons found in ordinary 
tombs in the Ur cemeteries: a preliminary count included 58 spears, 171 daggers 
and 309 axes. 15 If these numbers are proportional to the actual use of weapons it 
may give an impression of the troop-types of Sumerian armies. 

Body army was likewise absent, but the oldest known copper helmets were 
found still on the skulls of sacrificed bodyguards sent to accompany their kings in 
the afterlife (AFC §56; AW 1:49). The beautiful golden helmet-crown of Meka- 
lamdug {c. 2510} (AM §xvi; AANE §45; FA 83) could have been worn by the 
king in battle, but it would have afforded little protection; it is somewhal similar to 
the helmet worn by Eanatum (AM 66), but I suspect the battle version was in 



iMiize. There were apparently no metal helmets found in the non-royal graves, 
huh probably indicates that most helmets were leather. Only elite soldiers and 

■ yal guards had metal helmets. Some art from the royal tombs also display martial 
hemes, such as symbolic lions, representing the triumphant king, trampling pros- 

ii e enemies (AFC §57; RTU §13). A bodyguard in a sheepskin robe with an axe 
lends the king at a banquet (RTU §17). Bronze daggers are also common 
ipons in the art (AFC §58; RTU 74, §21). 

The "Standard of Ur ,A6 

Ihe most important artistic source for military history from the royal tombs is the 

■ i nous Standard of Ur, a box inlaid with shell and lapis lazuli depicting a scene of 
i< torious warfare of the king of Ur. It was discovered in tomb PC 779, which is 

lociated with Ur-Pabilsag, who died around 2550 (AFC 96-7). The martial side 

Di (lie box is divided into three panels, depicting different phases of combat. I 

lieve it should be read from the bottom to the top. In the bottom panel four 

Sumerian war-carts charge across a battlefield strewn with enemy corpses. These 

ii -carts are described in detail later (see Chapter Five). Each war-cart is pulled by 

four equids, and has a driver and a warrior, who wields either a javelin or an axe. 

I he middle panel shows a line of eight infantrymen on the left side, and another 

nil a dozen collecting enemy prisoners on the right. The eight are all dressed the 

nne and carry the same weapons. The men wear sheepskin kilts, and have long 

i pes running from their shoulders to their ankles. The capes are fastened at the 

ticck and open at the front, leaving the arms free for combat. The capes are polka- 

dotted, which some have interpreted as leopard skins, but are more likely simply 

■ >lorful designs. Each wears a leather cap or metal helmet fastened under the chin, 
perhaps similar to the helmets found in the royal tombs (AFC §56). Each of the 
men is armed with a medium-size thrusting spear, held underhand. The right half 

»i the middle panel shows the soldiers of Ur rounding up prisoners. All of them 
i.tve been wounded and have several gashes with flowing blood. Some of the Ur 
I ildiers have collected booty in their arms and are brandishing knives or clubs as 
they herd the prisoners. 

On the top panel the prisoners are brought before the king on the right side, 
naked and bleeding from their wounds. King Ur-Pabilsag stands in the center of 
iiie panel, reviewing the prisoners. Behind the king are three soldiers, each armed 
with spears and axes. In the rear is the royal chariot, held by the axe-armed driver. 
The elite warriors and charioteers all seem to be dressed in sheepskin or fringed 
leather kilts and wear sheepskin cloaks over one shoulder. The common soldiers 
wear the polka-dotted capes; both classes have the same caps or helmets. 

As 1 interpret it the Standard of Ur depicts the aftermath of a victorious battle 
rather than the actual combat. The chariots race across the field, pursuing the 
1 1 eei ni', foe mh\ trampling the dead. The middle panel shows the infantry following 
the ( hat nils i ollet tins', the booty and wounded enemy as prisoners. The final panel 
shows the tiiumph celebration where the booty and prisoners are brought before 



the king. The Standard shows two classes of Sumerian warriors, charioteers and 
infantry; there is no sign of archers and none of the corpses or wounded have any 
missiles protruding from therm The four weapons depicted are javelins (only 
thrown by charioteers), medium-size thrusting spears, and axes or daggers for close 
combat. We are not shown, however, how the enemy was defeated. Was there a 
phase of missile exchange? Was there an infantry melee? Did the chariots charge, 
drive by throwing javelins, or only pursue an enemy already broken by the infan- 
try? Despite these unanswered questions, the Standard of Ur is a striking piece of 
martial art, both for its depiction of war-carts, arms and armor, and for its evoca- 
tion of the martial spirit of the Sumerian kings. 

A lesser known, but equally important Ur war-scene comes from a cylinder 
seal, which I believe depicts a Sumerian army on the march, with infantry, 
war-carts, dogs, pack animals, and boats. 17 The scene shows two parallel panels, 
one on the river and one on land, which I interpret to show an army on campaign 
with part marching on the bank of the river, accompanied by other troops and 
supplies on boats in the river. The upper panel shows a boat with a seated royal 
figure being paddled by another man. On shore is a soldier with a long lance 
who accompanies a donkey bearing a load of supplies. The bottom panel 
shows the army on land accompanying the fleet on the river, with a two-wheeled 
war-cart ridden by a man with an axe (?) pulled by long-eared equids. The chariot 
is followed by a dog and three soldiers, one with an axe and two with long 

Although we know little of the actual military history of the First Dynasty of 
Ur, the royal tombs provide crucial examples of weapons and martial art, giving us 
invaluable insights into the Sumerian military system. 

Early Dynastic IIIA {2550-2400} 
and IIIB {2400-2250} 

With the beginning of Early Dynastic III, we enter our best-documented period 
for military history before the rise of the Akkadian empire of Sargon. We are 
especially fortunate to have a series of martial inscriptions from the kings of 
Lagash. Around 2500 we have vague records of a Mesilim who claimed the title 
"king of Kish" and who is remembered in later inscriptions as arbitrating a 
boundary dispute between Lagash and Umma (PI 40), an apparent reflection of his 
position of overlord. However, little is known of his military activities (KS 53). 18 

The warrior-kings of Lagash {2495— 2345} 19 

Early Dynastic IIIA could be called the age of the w r arlords of Lagash, who provide 
us with our richest sources of both military narratives and martial art of the Early 
I >\ -Mastic Age. Interestingly, Lagash is nowhere mentioned in the Sumerian King- 
list, .in oversight which is generally thought to reflect a propaganda statement by 


i he kings of early Middle Bronze Isin about the illegitimacy of the kings of Lagash. 
I he rise to hegemony of Lagash in Mesopotamia begins with the victories of 
1 'rnanshe. 

Urnanshe of Lagash {c. 2495—2475} 

The first Mesopotamian king for whom we have a detailed contemporary account 
6f warfare is Urnanshe of Lagash, who fought against both Umma and Ur. The 
background to this war relates to an ongoing struggle between Umma and Lagash 

I >ver control of agricultural land, diversion of irrigation water through building 
canals and dams, and failure to share the agricultural produce from certain shared 

I I acts of land (RH 22-3; PI 54-5). 

[Urnanshe, king] of Lagash. went to war against the leader of Ur and the 
leader of Umma: [Urnanshe] the leader of Lagash defeated the leader of Ur. 
He captured Mu[. . .] the admiral, captured Amabaragesi and Kishibgal the 
officers, captured Papursag, son of U'u, captured [. . .] the officer, he made a 
burial mound [for the war dead]. He [then] defeated the leader of Umma. He 
captured Lupad and Bilala the officers, captured Pabilgaltuk ruler of Umma, 
captured Urtulsag the officer, captured Hursagshernah the quartermaster- 
general, and he made a burial mound [for the war dead]. (PI 25) 

Urnanshe's inscription contains the first textual reference we have to the 
Mesopotamian custom of building burial mounds for the war dead at the site of a 
victory. We also have an iconographic representation of this in the famous Stele of 
Vultures, where the dead are shown placed in a pile by the victors while people 
carried baskets of earth to bury the corpses (AAM §121; see p. 55). When a 
Mesopotamian king claimed to have "raised a mound" after a battle it indicated 
that he was victorious, because his troops were in possession of the battlefield and 
therefore buried the war dead. Urnanshe emphasized his capture of important 
enemy officers, including the king of Umma, Pabilgaltuk. We do not know the 
fate of these captives; in later texts they are often tortured or executed, but are also 
often returned to their thrones as vassals of the victorious king. In addition to his 
military victories, Urnanshe also "built the walls of Lagash" (PI 25, 28—9), a 
defensive action emphasizing the military threat of his age. 

Some of the inscriptions of Lagash mention overseas voyages through the Persian 
Gulf to Dilmun (modern Bahrain; DANE 45; EA 1:266-8) for timber and stone 
for temple building (PI 23, 24, 28-30), Although not explicitly military ventures, 
these voyages indicate that seagoing vessels were capable of sailing the Persian Gulf 
during this period, and this maritime technology would lay the foundation for the 
eventual naval conquests of the Akkadians in the Persian Gulf (see pp. 80—1, 84). 

I Jrnanshe was succeeded by his son Akurgal {c. 2475-2455}, about whom we 
have no military information (PI 33), and then by his grandson Eanatum, the 
greatest warlord of Marly Dynastic Mesopotamia. 

a i 



Eanatum I (Eannatum) {c. 2455- 2425} 20 

According to Sumerian martial ideology, kings did not win victory in battle by 
their own strength and wisdom, but by the gift of the gods. Eanatum is no 

Eanatum, king of Lagash, granted strength by [the high god] Enlil, nourished 
with special milk by [the mother goddess] Ninhursag, given a fine name by 
[the war goddess] Inana, granted wisdom by [the god of wisdom] Enki, cho- 
sen in her heart by [the divination goddess] Nanshe the powerful mistress, 
who subjugates foreign lands for [the war god] Ningirsu [patron god of 
Lagash] . . . beloved spouse of [the war goddess] Inana. (PI 37) 

Not only was Eanatum granted these special gifts by the gods, he was in fact the 
son of god on earth. According to one of Eanatum 's inscriptions, the war god 
Ningirsu, "warrior [and son] of [the high god] Enlil", "implanted [his] semen for 
Eanatum in the womb" of Eanatum's mother. Thus, the hero-king was not a mere 
man, but a demi-god, son of the war god, destined to fulfill the gods' commands 
and restore the proper divine order in Sumer through victorious battle. When 
Eanatum. finally matured, "Ningirsu, with great joy, gave him the kingship of 
Lagash" (PI 34). 

Lagash had been engaged in an ongoing struggle with Umma over disputed 
agricultural land between the two cities for a generation or two. Attempted arbi- 
tration ultimately failed, leading to renewed hostilities (RH 22—4). Eanatum's first 
campaign was against his nearest rival, the city-state of Umma under their king 
Enakale. 21 The great war between Lagash and Umma is recorded in the longest 
and most detailed battle narrative of the Early Dynastic period. According tc 
Eanatum, the king of Umma "acted haughtily" and broke the divinely established 
order by usurping the "Gu'edena", an agricultural region between Umma and 
Lagash. Eanatum observed the city of Umma making military preparations to seize 
and retain control of this disputed agricultural land. 

Eanatum, who has strength [in war] . . . declared: "Now then, O Enemy [king 
of Umma]!" [He] proclaimed for evermore: "The ruler of Umma - where is he 
recruiting [soldiers for the war]? With [other] men [foreign mercenaries?] . . . 
he is able to exploit the [agricultural region] Gu'edena, the beloved field of 
Ningirsu. May he [the war god Ningirsu] strike him down!" (PI 34; cf PI 55) 

This warlike provocation of seizing land from Lagash would have justified 
military action by Eanatum, but the king was further compelled to battle by an 
oracular dream. 

Eanatum who lies sleeping — [his] be [loved] master [the war god Ningirsu] 
approaches his head [in an oracular dream, and says: | "Kish itself |ihe s.u in I 



city of divine kingship] must abandon Umma.. . . The sun- [god] will shine at 
your right [in battle], and a [crown?] will be affixed to your forehead. O 
Eanatum, you will slay [the enemy from Umma] there. [The burial mound 
with] their myriad corpses will reach the base of heaven. In Umma [„ . .] 
the people of his [king Enakale's] own city will rise up against him and he 
will be killed within Umma itself [during the rebellion of his own people].' 
(PI 34) 

I 'aiakale, king of Umma, was not merely the enemy of Lagash, but the enemy of 
(lie gods, who prophesied his defeat in battle. Eanatum does not go to war for 
plunder or personal glory, but at the express command of the gods. 

The description of most of the beginning of the battle is unfortunately broken, 
I nit the narrative picks up again in mid-combat. "He [king Eanatum] fought with 
him [king Enakale]. A person shot an arrow at Eanatum. Lie was shot through by 
i lie arrow and had difficulty moving. He cried out in the face of it" (PI 34). This 
text shows both the use of archery in Sumerian warfare - which is unclear in the 
nt of the period — and the fact that the kings fought in personal combat 

The next part of the text is again broken, but it is obvious that, despite his 
.erious wound, Eanatum leads the army of Lagash to victory. After the victory, a 
treaty is made, in which Enakale of Umma is forced to cede land to Lagash 

Eanatum, the man of just commands, measured off the boundary with the 
leader of Umma, left [some land] under Umma s control, and erected a 
monument on that spot [of the victory].- . . He defeated Umma and 
made twenty burial mounds for [the battle dead, indicating very high casual- 
ties in the war, or perhaps a number of different encounters].. . . Eanatum 
restored to [the god] Ningirsu's control his beloved field, the Gu'edena. . . . 
Eanatum erected a [victory] monument in the grand temple of Ningirsu. 
(PI 34-5) 

I he defeated Enakale of Umma is thereafter forced to swear a peace oath. 

Eanatum gave the great battle net of [the supreme god] Enlil to [Enakale] the 
leader of Umma and made him swear to him by it. The leader of Umma 
swore to Eanatum: "By the life of Enlil, king of heaven and Earth! I may exploit 
the field of Ningirsu as a[n interest-bearing] loan.. . . Forever and evermore, I 
shall not transgress the territory of [Lagash, the city of the god] Ningirsu! 
I shall not shift the [course of] its irrigation channels and canals! I shall 
not smash its [boundary] monuments! Whenever I do transgress, may the 
great battle net of Enlil, king of heaven and earth, by which I have sworn, 
descend upon Umma!" Eanatum was very clever indeed! He made up the 
eyes of two doves with kohl, and anointed their heads with cedar [resin]. 
I le released them to [the high god] Enlil, king of heaven and earth [as an 
nlTering]. (I'l 35) 



Doubting the sincerity of this oath taken under extreme duress, Eanatum forced 
Enakale to repeat the exact same oath by five additional gods (PI 35—7). As we 
shall see, Eanatum s distrust was justified. Some time after the initial victory, the 
oath was broken just as Eanatum had feared: "the leader of Umma smashed the 
[boundary and victory] monument" that Eanatum. had set up after his victory, and 
occupied the disputed lands. The war god Ningirsu again "gave the order to 
Eanatum [to go to war], and he destroyed [the city of] Umma" (PI 39—40). 

With its rival Umma subjugated, Lagash was now one of the most powerful 
states in Sumer, but was yet by no means predominant. In subsequent years he 
launched a whole series of campaigns throughout Mesopotamia. In his first cam- 
paigns he "defeated Elam and Subartu [northern Mesopotamia], mountainous 
lands of timber and treasure ... he defeated Susa [the capital of Elam]" (PI 37), and 
"defeated the ruler of Urua, who stood with the standard [of the god of the city] 
in the vanguard [of the battle line]" (PI 43), another indication of Sumerian kings 
fighting in the front ranks. Thereafter he turned to subdue the rival city-states of 

He defeated Uruk, he defeated Ur, he defeated Kiutu. He sacked Uruaz and 
killed its ruler. He sacked Mishime and destroyed Arua. All the foreign [non- 
Sumerian] lands trembled before Eanatum, the nominee of Ningirsu. Because 
the king of Akshak [a city near Baghdad] attacked, Eanatum , . . beat back 
Zuzu, king of Akshak . . . and destroyed [Akshak]. (PI 41-2, 43) 

His initial victories over these city-states established his pre-eminence in Sumer, so 
that "to Eanatum, ruler of Lagash, Inana [the war goddess], because she loved him 
so, gave him the kingship of Kish", meaning official status as hegemon over Sumer 
(PI 41). Thereafter, 

Elam trembled before Eanatum, he drove the Elamite back to his own land. 
Kish trembled before Eanatum; he drove the king of Akshak back to his own 
land. (PI 42) 

Eanatum s new status as hegemon, however, was not entirely secure. Realizing 
they could not defeat him. individually, his defeated rivals began to form coalitions 
against him: 

He defeated [a coalition of the kings of] Elam, Subartu and Urua at the [battle 
of the] Asuhur [canal]. He defeated [a coalition of the kings] of Kish, Akshak 
and Mari at the Antasura of Ningirsu. (PI 42) 

By the time of his death Eanatum was supreme in southern Mesopotamia, and 
hegemon of Sumer, but his defeated enemies chafed under the domination of 
Lagash, and grasped the first opportunity to rebel under Han. it inn's successor and 
brother, Enanatum I (see pp. 60-1). 



The Stele of the Vultures 22 

urn's great victory over Umma, which left twenty burial mounds of enemy 
ii id launched Eanatum on his career towards domination of Sumer, was 
Ited in the famous "Stele of the Vultures' 5 , which could perhaps be better 

•d "The Victory of Ningirsu through Eanatum". This stele is perhaps the 
f surviving piece of Early or Middle Bronze martial art from ancient 

|M>i,imia, and merits detailed attention. 

K stele is unfortunately broken and fragmentary, but the overall sense is clear. 
i it ire stele shows the victories of Eanatum, but each side shows a different 

| the celestial and the terrestrial. The divine side, probably the more sig- 

ui from the Sumerian perspective, is divided into two panels. The upper 
hows the bearded and powerful war god Ningirsu, father of Eanatum and 

/ (v . m , / I he "Stele of the Vultures", king Eanatum of Lagash, Sumer {c. 2440} 

| ou\i« At ) it) drawing hy Michael Lyon. 



divine patron of the city of Lagash. Ningirsu holds his mace in his right hand, and 
holds the "great battle net" of Enlil in his left hand - surmounted by an emblem of 
the mythical Sumerian lion-headed eagle Anzu (also called Imdugud, GDS 107-8; 
AAM §117; AM §70a) — by which the defeated king of Umma was forced to swear 
an oath that, if he broke the treaty, "the great battle net of Enlil . . . [will] descend 
upon Umma" (AM §67; PI 35), precisely as depicted in the stele, The soldiers of 
Umma are caught in the net, and the head of one - presumably the king of Umma 
who is trying to escape - is being crushed by the mace of Ningirsu (AM §67, 69). 
Behind Ningirsu, and about half the size of the god, stands a figure in a feathered 
crown holding a battle standard crested with Anzu (AAM §118). This is probably 
Ninhursag, mother and councilor to Ningirsu. The standard, possibly an actual 
bronze standard of Lagash (PI 43), is Anzu, precisely the same emblematic creature 
on Ningirsu 's battle net. When the standard is carried into battle it thus represents 
the presence of Ningirsu going into battle beside the king - a motif mentioned in 
numerous Mesopotamian inscriptions. 

The lower register is quite fragmentary, but clearly shows the edge of a chariot 
on the left, and the top of the head of Ninhursag facing the chariot on the right 
(AAM §118). This type of chariot of the gods was led in processions at the temple 
of Ningirsu at Lagash, where the king Eanatum greets the god and shares the 
booty of the victory with him. It is possible that the chariot and Anzu standard 
were actually brought into battle as a sign of the divine presence of Ningirsu, 
rather like the biblical Ark of the Covenant (Judges 5.20; Joshua 6; 1 Samuel 4-6); 
hence the emphasis given by Eanatum on his later capture of the standard of the 
enemy king of the city of Urua (PI 41, 43). The overall meaning of the celestial 
side of the stele is that Ningirsu grants victory in battle to his son and earthly 
representative, Eanatum, king of Lagash. 

The other terrestrial side of the stele shows the earthly results of Ningirsu 's 
divine intervention on behalf of Eanatum (AFC 190). This side is divided into 
four panels, which are probably intended to be read chronologically from top to 
bottom. It must be emphasized that the panel does not show the army of Lagash in 
actual combat, but at the moment of victory. In the top panel the sky is filled with 
vultures - from which the stele gets its name - who fly off with the severed arms 
and heads of the dead soldiers of the defeated army of Umma (AM §120). Beneath 
the hovering vultures, on the right side of the panel, the victorious army of 
Eanatum marches gloriously over the corpses of their fallen enemy (AM §66). 
King Eanatum leads the army wearing a thick sheepskin kilt and long sheepskin 
robe on his left shoulder and a helmet similar to the golden helmet of Meka- 
lamdug from the Royal Tombs of Ur (see p. 48). He is armed with what is 
sometimes called a sickle-sword, but what may be a scepter or club (see pp. 66—71). 
Behind him his troops are marshaled in a very interesting formation, which is 
sometimes described as a phalanx (AM §68). The soldiers are beardless, with long 
hair flowing down to their shoulders. They all wear helmets, whi< h might be of 
copper similar to those found in the royal tombs of Ur (A I ( ' ; : i(. \\\ 1 !'>).< )ne 
text mentions the delivery of a copper/bronze helmet .nui ;<■ uh ul implying 


1 1 (lie two go together as a warrior's equipment (PI 71). However, it may be that 
niy the elite bodyguards, like those buried in the royal tombs, had metal helmets, 
rest making due with leather caps. 

I he front of the formation is protected by four large body-length shields - only 

I heads and feet of the soldiers are visible. The shields are rectangular - about 
H and a half meters tall and a meter wide; each has six round, evenly spaced 

I |, It is impossible to tell what the shields are made from, but a contemporary 

ly shield from Mari (AFC §99) is made of long reeds bound together with 

ither straps and a large handle two-thirds of the way up. By analogy it is likely 

■ l he Lagash shield were made of reeds and covered with leather. It appears that 

i v soldier did not have his own shield. Rather, only the front rank of the for- 

n ion carried the shield in both hands, forming a solid shield wall. This is 

^parent from two characteristics. First, between each shield we see six spears 

II us! forward, and each spear is held by two hands, which means the men in the 
U ranks cannot hold a shield. A second feature which points to most soldiers 
ing shieldless is that in the second panel, discussed below, none of the soldiers 

e shields, nor do those in the Standard of Ur (AFC 98—9). Thus, the overall 
mation is seven men deep. The front man carries a shield, probably with both 
iids for ease of maneuverability and bearing the weight. The rest of the men in 
lollowing six ranks thrust their spears between the shields. 

II ie right half of the first panel is generally ignored, but is important for 
i h In-standing the scene. The army of Lagash is trampling the dead on the left 

p( >n ion of the top panel, while on the right the diminutive and chaotic soldiers of 

1 in ma - some fallen, some tumbling, some standing - flee in terror (AFC 190). 

« mly the upper left portion of the second panel has survived (AAM §119; AM 

'■). On the right Eanatum, in precisely the same dress as on panel one, rides his 

ii cart into battle. In his right hand he holds a sickle-sword (or club or mace) 

in! m his left hand he holds a long lance which he is thrusting out against the 

ininy over the heads of his donkeys (see p. 55). Most of the war-cart and the 

quids pulling it is missing, but from its size it is clearly a four-wheeled vehicle, 

n«l essentially the same in structure as the war-carts found in the Standard of Ur, 

i hough rendered in more detail (see pp. 49-50); the javelin quiver contains eight 

l-ivelins and an axe. Behind Eanatum stands his driver, who is mostly effaced by 

I image to the stele; his arm by Eanatum's hip is holding an axe (or a javelin?). 

1'" hind Eanatum marches the infantry of Lagash. They are dressed in sheepskin 

hits, with some type of sash (leather or colored cloth?) over their left shoulders. 

1 hey wear precisely the same helmets as the soldiers in the first panel, and are 

irmed with spears and narrow-bladed socketed axes, some of which have been 

blind by archaeologists (RTU §151; AW 1:136-7). They seem to be marching in 

fairly ordered ranks. 

Several questions of interpretation arise here. First, are the infantry in panel two 

i Ik same as those in panel one, but in a different phase of the battle? Or are they an 

tit ire 1\ different tactical unit, performing a different function? One interpretation 

i ih.ii the\ represent the same troops in different phases of the battle. In 



defensive positions, or when advancing slowly, the Sumerian infantry remained 
behind the large body-shields. When attacking, however, they abandoned the 
shields, which were too bulky to use at a run, and charged forward without them. 
The other interpretation maintains that some of the infantry fought without the 
shields, and were assigned to tactically support the war-carts at a run. According to 
this interpretation, the heavy infantry fought from behind their shield wall 
throughout the entire battle, while different units of light, shieldless infantry sup- 
ported the war-carts. Another question derives from the placing of Eanatum rela- 
tive to the infantry. In both the first and second panels, Eanatum precedes his army 
into battle. Does this represent actual tactical practice, or is it a symbolic repre- 
sentation of the king as leader of the army? Most importantly, did the war-carts 
generally precede the infantry into battle? In other words, did war-carts charge 
against enemy formations supported by infantry, or did the infantry defeat other 
infantry while the war-carts supported with javelins, or pursued fleeing enemies. 
Unfortunately, the evidence from Early Dynastic Sumer is insufficient to answer 
these questions with certainty. 

Of the third panel, only a triangular fragment of the center-left survives, 
showing the aftermath of the battle (AAM §121). The left shows a burial mound: 
the dead of Umma - and perhaps the casualties of Lagash as well - are stacked in a 
mound, while workers bring baskets full of dirt to bury them. This is the burial 
mound whose "myriad corpses will reach to the base of heaven" (PI 34) as pro- 
phesied in Eanatum's dream. The right side of this fragment shows the rich bounty 
from the reconquest of the field of Gu'edena, the result of Eanatum's victory. In 
the far right corner we see the feet of Eanatum, supervising the scene. At his feet a 
cow lies bound to a stake, which is probably either to be sacrificed to the gods, or 
will be eaten by the troops. The message of this panel is also clear. The result of 
war is death to the e3iemies of the god Ningirsu and his beloved city of Lagash, 
and prosperity and bounty for the people of Lagash. 

Only the barest sliver of the fourth panel remains, but it provides enough 
information to reconstruct some of the scene. In the far left of the panel we see a 
hand grasping the end of a long lance in precisely the same way that Eanatum 
grasps the end of his lance from his chariot in the second panel. I suggest that the 
fourth panel showed another chariot scene parallel to that in the second panel, or 
perhaps the king standing and using his lance. The precise length of the lance is 
difficult to tell, but by comparing its proportional length to the size of Eanatum in 
the surviving figures, the lance would seem to be three to three-and-a-half meters 
long. All of this implies that, in addition to using javelins from the war-carts, the 
Sumer ians also used long lances, which the chariot warrior would thrust over the 
backs of the equids against the enemy. On the far right of the fourth panel we see 
the tops of four heads, three facing to the right. Only the tops of their heads are 
visible, and they are set very close together. They seem to be wearing helmets 
similar to those worn by the soldiers of Lagash in the first and second panels. It 
may be that they are part of the advancing army of Lagash, but im weapons are 
visible above their heads (as they should be by analogy to panel tu<>) I unhei more, 



' .ii latum is always shown on the stele preceding his army, never following it. I 
Biggest they are probably enemy soldiers who have turned to flee from the irre- 
sistible onslaught of Eanatum's chariot. 

The fourth figure, who is taller and slightly larger than the others, faces left, 
thout to be stabbed in the face by Eanatum's lance. He seems to be raising his hand 
to ward off the blow. This figure probably represents the enemy leader, at the 
moment of his defeat by Eanatum, A fragment of the inscription by this head reads 
"king of Kish" (PI 37). This may simply be a phrase from a longer part of the now 
lost inscription, but some have speculated that this refers to the name of the man 
who is being attacked by Eanatum - Eanatum himself is likewise identified in a 
superscription on the stele (PI 37). In other words, the fourth panel may show 
Eanatum's victory over the king of Kish. This makes some sense in the context of 
i he inscriptions, since, as Eanatum's oracular dream prophesies, "Kish itself must 
.ihandon Umma, and, being angry, cannot support it [Umma]" (PI 34), implying 
that Kish was an ally of Umma in the war. This scene would thus represent the 
iftermath of the original victory over Umma in which the "king of Kish" is like- 
wise overthrown, paving the way for Eanatum to take that title of hegemony in 
Sumer, as he ultimately does (PI 42). 

Ironically the Stele of the Vultures may not be a representation of the actual 
battle, but rather of the oracular dream in which Ningirsu ordered Eanatum to go 
i < ) war with Umma and promised him victory. 

Most of the elements of Eanatum's dream are depicted in the stele. On the celes- 
tial side we see the appearance of the God Ningirsu holding his enemies trapped in 
the great battle net. On the other side we see the defeat of the army of Umma and 
ihe huge burial mound reaching to the height of heaven. In the small upper frag- 
ment of the lowest panel we see a figure about to be skewered by Eanatum's lance, 
who is possibly identified in the inscription as the "king of Kish" (PI 37), whom 
i he oracular dream promises "must abandon Umma" and "cannot support 
Umma". The stele thus nicely illustrates how oracular dreams, divine intervention, 
and actual combat were all inextricably intertwined in Sumerian warfare. 

Other artistic sources 

Additional Early Dynastic martial art supplements the more famous Standard of Ur 
and Stele of the Vultures. Most of the martial art of the Early Dynastic period 
often does not have sufficient chronological context to be attributed to a specific 
ruler or dynasty All of the art exhibits similar styles and themes. These sources are 
important to help us avoid interpreting Sumerian martial art based only on the 
artistically most famous and most frequently reproduced items - in other words, 
generalizing from limited examples. Some very fragmentary figures from Kish 
(AFC §48—9) show close parallels with similar scenes from contemporary Mari and 
I hi. i (sec pp. 241-8), which allows us to fill in some conceptual gaps. 

In scenes of close-grappling melee combat, either with humans, animals, or 
mytliK monsters, the preferred melee weapons include the mace (FI §79), short 



thrusting spear (or javelin) held overhand (FI §61, §78, §942), the axe, and the 
dagger, held either overhand (FI §83, §758; AAM §46) or underhand (FI §837). In 
one scene a warrior has grabbed his enemy by the hair and is thrusting his dagger 
into his neck (FI §837). Wrestling and boxing are also depicted as sports (AM §46; 
AANE §437; AAM §48). The bow is occasionally shown (FI §758, §933; ME 110; 
AFC §99), indicating its use in this period even though absent from the Standard 
of Ur and the Stele of the Vultures. Several scenes also show javelins used from 
boats for hunting (FI §695-7; FI §934); presumably they would have been used in 
river warfare as well (AMM §44). 

A number of Early Dynastic maceheads were dedicated as temple offerings, 
indicating the continued use of that weapon. 23 One example has four carved lion- 
heads projecting out of the sides of the mace (AAM §38), which may be related to 
lion-headed maces which kings said they dedicated to the gods. 24 The mace was 
possibly considered the premier royal weapon of the Sumerians. From Gudea's 
dynasty at Lagash alone we have twenty-nine surviving votive maceheads (E3/ 
1:225—6 for catalog list). Based on archaeological evidence alone, we would con- 
clude that the stone mace was the major weapon of the Sumerians. However, 
these maces may reflect the continuation of traditional ritual use of the mace - 
rather like a royal scepter (AM §65) — rather than its use it combat. The priority of 
the mace in ritual did not necessarily translate into its priority in combat, where it 
seems to have largely been replaced by the axe, as found in the artistic and textual 
sources. In the Stele of the Vultures the god Ningirsu still wields a mace, while all 
humans on the terrestrial battlefield use axes (AM §66-7; cf SDA 169). This 
emphasizes that caution needs to be used when trying to reconstruct combat 
weapon-use from archaeological evidence alone. What gets preserved in the 
archaeological evidence is often based not on what weapons were used in combat, 
but on what weapons were used in rituals, in temple dedications, or in tombs. 

Enanatum I {c. 2425-2405} 25 

Upon the death of Eanatum he was succeeded by his brother Enanatum I 
Urluma, king of Umma, the son of Enakale who had been humiliated in the wars 
with Lagash, took the opportunity afforded by the succession to attempt to regain 
the disputed land: 

Urluma, ruler of Umma, recruited foreigners [as mercenaries] 26 and trans- 
gressed the boundary channel of [the god] Ningirsu, [saying]: "Antasura is 
mine! I shall exploit its produce!" [The god Ningirsu] spoke angrily [through 
a prophetic oracle]: "Urluma . . . has marched on my very own field. He must 
not do violence against Enanatum, my mighty male!' Enanatum beat back 
Urluma. (PI 47-8) 

Urluma's rebellion against the hegemony of Lagash was apparently not the only 
one, for a later inscription informs us that the gods "granted kim-Jnp «>l I .iv.ish to 



I nanatum, put all foreign lands [Elam, northern Mesopotamia] in his control, and 
i the rebellious lands [of Sumer] at his feet" (PI 51). Thus, though the details are 
not known, it appears that Enanatum faced a serious rebellion upon his succession; 
lit' claims to have retained control over Sumer, but if so, it was quite tenuous. 

Enmetena {c. 2405-2385} (PI 54-68) 

nine of Enanatum's claims may have been prop agandis tic hyperbole (RH 30-1), 
for the war between Umma and Lagash continued. The conflict erupted over the 

ii lure of Umma to pay the grain tribute that had been established by earlier 
I i cities: 

When, because of [Umma's failure to deliver] that barley, he [Enanatum I] 
sent envoys to him [Urluma], having them say to him, "You must deliver my 
barley!" Urluma spoke haughtily with him: "[The] Antasura [agricultural 
zone] is mine, it is my territory!" he said. He levied the Ummaites and for- 
eign [mercenaries] were dispatched there. At the [battle of the] Ugiga-field, 
the beloved field of [the god] Ningirsu, Ningirsu destroyed the Ummaite 
army. (PI 77) 

More details are provided in the inscription of Enmetena, son and successor to 
I nanatum I: 

Enanatum, [father of Enmetena and] ruler of Lagash, fought with him 
[Urluma of Umma] in the Ugiga-field, the field of Ningirsu. Enmetena, 
beloved son of Enanatum, [commanding the army of Lagash], defeated him 
| Urluma]. He [Urluma] had abandoned sixty teams of asses on the bank of the 
Lumagirnunta-canal, and left the bones of their personnel strewn over the 
plain. He [Enmetena] made burial mounds in five places there for them. (PI 
55, 77) 

I Ins inscription has a number of interesting features. It states that Enanatum 

I I night with Urluma, but does not mention a victory. Rather, his son Enmetena is 
ikI to have defeated Urluma. This can be understood in one of two ways. Either 

I nanatum fought Urluma and was defeated, after which Enmetena took revenge, 
< M that Enanatum declared the war but was too old to fight, and the actual battle 
is fought by his son Enmetena (RH 29-30). Whatever the actual events, this 
i n< i do nt reminds us of an important characteristic of ancient Near Eastern 
inscriptions. A king never writes an inscription or raises a monument in which he 
idmits defeat. Since, due to the vagaries of archaeological preservation and dis- 
( i Any, we lack inscriptions from Umma's side of this war, the conflict appears at 
Inst glance to be nothing more than an endless succession of brilliant victories by 
1 aj'.ash on hestrated hy die god Ningirsu. The reality was obviously quite different, 
limird .it hv tlif la* t thai Enanatum is said to have fouirht Urluma, but not to have 


defeated him. The other interesting item in this inscription is the mention of the cap- 
ture of "sixty teams of asses", meaning, presumably, sixty teams for war-carts. The 
implications of this for Sumerian war-cart warfare are discussed in Chapter Five. 

In the aftermath of the battle, Urluma escaped. The army of Tagash followed 
the fleeing king to the walls of Umma, where Enmetena "sent [envoys to Umma, 
saying]: 'Be it known that [Umma] will be completely destroyed! Surrender!' " (PI 
85). Urluma apparently refused to surrender and was overthrown and killed in a 
coup. He was replaced by II, a priest of the temple at Zabala, who usurped the 
throne. Umma apparently made peace thereafter, but the underlying conflict over 
the disputed agricultural and water rights continued, with Enmetena prevailing (PI 
55). Most of Enmetena's other inscriptions deal with temple building or other 
ritual activities. He does mention that he "built a fortress along the Sala- [canal] in 
the Gu'edena [agricultural zone], and named it 'Building-that-Surveys-the-Plain' 
for him. He built: a wall for the Girsu ferry terminal" (PI 67). These were watch- 
towers and provincial fortifications designed to observe and protect against troops 
or raiders from Umma. 

Enmetena's control over other parts of Sumer was likewise weakened. A 
building report mentions that 

He [Enmetena] cancelled [labor and tribute?] obligations for the citizens of 
Uruk, Larsa and Patibira. He restored [the first] to [the goddess] Inana 's con- 
trol at Uruk, he restored [the second] to [the god] Utu's control at Larsa, and 
he restored [the third] to [the god] Lugalemush's control at the Emush [temple 
in Patibira]. (RH 31) 

The obvious import of this inscription is that there were certain obligations of 
labor or resources that these city-states had been required to make, but that 
Enmetena "restored" them to the city-states. The implication here is that his 
hegemony over these city-states was lost, at least to some degree. This is confirmed, 
by another text which states that "Enmetena ruler of Lagash and Lugalkiginedudu, 
ruler of Uruk, established brotherhood" (RH 31). "Brotherhood" here implies 
peaceful relations, but more specifically, independent equal kings called themselves 
"brothers". Whereas his uncle Eanatum had "defeated Uruk" (PI 41—2) and 
established hegemony over the city, Uruk is now regarded as a fully independent 
equal of Lagash, whose obligations of labor and tribute were "restored". This may 
hint at the initial military victory by Uruk which laid the foundation for the rise of 
that city to predominance under subsequent rulers (see pp. 63-6). Thus, under 
Enmetena, the hegemony of Lagash which had been established by Eanatum was 
beginning to be undermined. 

En-entarzi {c. 2367-2350} 

Unfortunately we know almost nothing of the military histon oi I agasli during 
the next forty years {c. 2385— 2343 }. 2S The vague i i n)i * .nil »ii' •*. h.iv< pomt to the 


decreasing military might of Lagash. There is a brief account that during the reign 
M En-entarzi {c. 2373-2360} 600 Elamites raided the land of Lagash, but they 
ere intercepted and captured by local troops. 

Luenna, the sanga [temple administrator], fought with 600 Elamites who were 
carrying off booty from Lagash to Elam. He defeated the Elamites and [took] 
560 Elamites [prisoner] — They are in Eninmar. He [Luenna] recovered five 
vessels of pure silver, twenty [. . .] five royal garments, and fifteen hides. 

(KS 331) 

lich raids and counter-raids were probably not uncommon in Early Dynastic 
iumer, but records of such events have rarely survived. The fact that this raid was 
fealt with by the local commander probably points to a military system in Lagash 

I if was still relatively strong. On the other hand, the fact that the raid occurred at 
ill, and that there is no record of a retaliatory attack by Lagash against Elam, 

obably points to the declining prestige and overall military strength of Lagash 

i' nig these decades. 

Uru'inimgina (Urukagina) {c. 2 343-23 3 S} 29 

i lie growing weakness of Lagash is emphasized by the fact that its last king of this 
period, Uru'inimgina, was a usurper: "Ningirsu . . . granted the kingship of Lagash 
to Uru'inimgina, selecting him from among the myriad people; [Uru'inimgina] 
replaced the customs of former times" (PI 71); this implies that there was a period 
of social anarchy at the time (PI 74-5). The disorders and weakness of Lagash 
increased the threat of outside intervention, causing Uru'inimgina to "[re]build 
die- wall of [the city of] Girsu" (PI 70). But this was a case of too little too late. The 
Mr names 30 on several tablets mention sieges of Lagash by "the leader of Uruk" 
n the fourth {2340} and sixth years {2338} of Uru'inimgina (RH 34), for a new 
■I cat warlord had arisen who in one terrible day would erase the century-and-a- 
half of domination of Lagash over Umma. 

The Second and Third Dynasties of Uruk {2410-2316} 

1 he power vacuum created by the declining military strength of Lagash in the 
tuenty-fourth century was filled by Uruk, ruled by the epic hero Gilgamesh three 
hundred years earlier. Lugalkiginedudu (Lugaikinishedudu) {c. 2410-2390} seems 
i" have initiated the revival of fortunes for Uruk by becoming king of both Uruk 
ii i.l nearby Ur. It is not clear if he took Ur by force, but the impression from the 
mm points to some type of diplomatic union of the states (PI 101-3): "[The god] 
\n, king of all lands, and [goddess] Inana, queen of [the temple] Eana, Lugalk- 
igmcdudu, king of Kish - when Inana combined lordship with kingship for 
I ugalkiginediulu, he exercised lordship in Uruk and kingship in Ur" (PI 102). In 
tins text lie also (Linus the title "king of Kish", which the kings of Lagash had 



ceased using. If not pure hyperbole, this probably implies some type of hegemony 
in Sumer for Uruk. 

We have no military records for the next two kings of Uruk, Lugalkisalsi 
{c. 2390-2375} (PI 103-4) and Urzage {c. 2375-2360} (PI 104). However, they 
retained the dual monarchy of Uruk and Ur (PI 103), and Urzage, at least, con- 
tinued his claim to be "king of Kish" (PI 104), pointing to ongoing predominance 
of Uruk during the early twenty-fourth century. The fourth king of Uruk, 
Enshakushana {c. 2360—2340} (PI 104—6) spread Uruk hegemony into northern 
Sumer with a campaign against Kish and Anshak. 

For [the god] Enlil, [divine] king of all lands, Enshakushana, lord of Sumer 
and king of the nation [of the Sumerians] — when the gods commanded him, 
he sacked Kish and captured Enbi'ishtar, king of Kish. [He defeated] the lea- 
der of Akshak and the leader of Kish, having sacked their cities [. . .] [He] 
dedicated the statues [of the gods of Akshak and Kish], their precious 
metals and lapis lazuli, their timber and treasure to [the god] Enlil at Nippur. 
(PI 105) 

According to this inscription, Enshakushana conquered Kish and Akshak (near 
Baghdad) in northern Sumer; his offerings at the temple of Nippur implied some 
type of alliance or suzerainty over that city as welL Taken as a whole, control of 
Ur, Uruk, Nippur, Kish, and Akshak gave Enshakushana power over western, 
central and northern Sumer. This left only Lagash in the south-east still outside of 
the domination of Uruk. Lagash became the target of the last and greatest of the 
warlords of Uruk, Lugalzagesi. 

Lugalzagesi (Lugalzaggissi) {2340-2316} 31 

Lugalzagesi was the son of king U'u of Umma, and great-grandson of II, who had 
usurped the throne from Urluma after his disastrous defeat at the battle of the 
Ugiga-field (see p. 62). Before becoming king of Umma, Lugalzagesi had been an 
important priest of Nisaba, patron goddess of Umma (PI 94). His relationship to 
the city of Uruk is somewhat mysterious; he claims he was "brought up by Nin- 
girim the mistress of Uruk" (PI 94), perhaps implying an intimate relationship 
with the city from his youth. It is probable that he became king of Uruk through 
marriage or some type of peaceful acquisition, rather than by war (RH 34). In his 
major royal inscription he lists "king of Uruk" (PI 94) as his first title, and he is 
called king of Uruk, not Umma, in the Sumerian King-list (KS 330). This would 
imply that the sieges by the "king of Uruk" against Lagash and Girsu mentioned in 
several year names were undertaken by Lugalzagesi himself, and are the same 
events as the sieges described in the Uru 'inimgina inscription. By combining the 
city-state of Ur with the kingdom of Uruk, which had conquered most of Sumer 
under the previous kings, Lugalzagesi was master of all Sun in e\< epi the old dual 
city-state of Lagash-Girsu, to which he turned his attention 

f, I 


The initial attacks by Lugalzagesi against Lagash were unsuccessful. A frag- 
mentary inscription describes these initial campaigns. "He [Lugalzagesi] besieged 
I .irsu [the second major city of the kingdom of Lagash]. Uru'inimgina battled him 
tnd [drove him off] at [Girsu's] wall. [. . .] He [Lugalzagesi] returned to his city 
[1 Imma], but came a second time [to attack Girsu]" (PI 78). The year names also 
i nention at least three failed sieges against Lagash by the "king of Uruk", pre- 

iimably Lugalzagesi (RH 34). 

Although the details are not known, around 2335 Lugalzagesi inflicted a 

i ushing defeat against Lagash, in which he sacked and destroyed the city. We have 
I poetic lament by a priest of Lagash who witnessed the final destruction of 
Ins city. 

[Lugalzagesi] the leader of Umma set fire to the Ekibira [temple]. He set fire 
to the Antasura [temple] and bundled off its precious metals and lapis-lazuli. 
He plundered the palace of Tirash, he plundered the Abzubanda [temple], he 
plundered the chapels of [the gods] Enlil and Utu. He plundered the Ahush 
[temple] and carried off its precious metals and lapis-lazuli. (PI 78-9) 

I lie account goes on in this vein, describing the desecration and plundering of 
mother dozen shrines. The priest-scribe making this account was in a sense 
rearing a judicial record of the crimes and sacrilege of Lugalzagesi, and ends his 
l< count with a prayer and curse: 

The leader of Umma [Lugalzagesi], having sacked Lagash, has committed a sin 
against Ningirsu. The hand which he [Lugalzagesi] has raised against him 
[Ningirsu] will be cut off! It is not [because of] a sin of Uru'inimgina, king of 
Girsu [that Lagash was sacked] ! May Nisaba, the god of Lugalzagesi, ruler of 
Umma, make him [Lugalzagesi] bear the sin [for plundering the temples of 
the gods]! [PI 79] 

In a sense this bitter prayer was answered, for Lugalzagesi would eventually himself 
R defeated and overthrown by Sargon of Akkad; if the scribe who wrote this 
iirsc lived to see that day he undoubtedly rejoiced and praised his gods. 

liut the day of retribution was not to come for another twenty years, which 

ere filled with triumph upon triumph for Lugalzagesi. Using the plunder and 

lives from the sack of Lagash, Lugalzagesi was able to muster an even stronger 

u my for a series of campaigns over the next two decades. If he was not already 

king of Uruk in 2335, he became such within the next few years and seems to 

I i.ivc moved his capital there, using "king of Uruk" as his principle title. 

I hiving thus conquered the last independent city-state of Sumer, Lugalzagesi 
■ i.imied the title of high king of Kish. 

When |ihe high god| Enlil, [divine] king of all the lands, gave to Lugalzagesi 
the kingship ol the nation |of Simier|, |iiiii!| directed all the eyes [of the other 


rulers of the] land [of Sumer] toward him [Lugalzagesi, in obedience], put all 
the lands at his feet [in submission], from east to west made them subject to 
him. (PI 94) 

Here we see that, in typical Sumerian fashion, it is the gods who decided to grant 
Lugalzagesi supreme kingship in Sumer. Later in the inscription Lugalzagesi lists 
the Sumerian cities that "rejoice" under his kingship. It; presumably lists his con- 
quests or vassal states, and includes Uruk, Ur, Larsa, Umma, Zabala, Kidingir, and 
Nippur (PI 94). Lagash and Girsu, though conquered by Lugalzagesi, are notably 
absent from the list - perhaps there was little rejoicing in those devastated cities. 

With Sumer fully secure, Lugalzagesi turned his attention to the Semitic- 
speaking lands to the north, campaigning along both the Tigris and Euphrates 

Then, from the Lower Sea [Persian Gulf], along the Tigris and Euphrates to 
the Upper [Mediterranean] Sea, he [the god Enlil] put their routes in good 
order for [Lugalzagesi 's armies to march, and for communication and trade]. 
From east to west Enlil permitted him no rival; under him the lands rested 
contentedly, the people made merry, and the suzerains of [the various vassal 
city-states of] Sumer, and the rulers of other lands [along the Tigris and 
Euphrates] conceded sovereignty to him [Lugalzagesi] at Uruk. (PI 94) 

Some scholars doubt the historicity of Lugalzagesi 's conquests outside of Sumer, 
attributing the inscription to royal hyperbole. It is true that there is little con- 
firming evidence for his conquests, although the city of Mari was sacked twice 
during this period, which could be attributed to campaigns by Lugalzagesi and 
later by Sargon (CAH 1/2:331). On the other hand, there is nothing inherently 
improbable about Lugalzagesi being able to campaign up the Tigris and Euphrates. 
After all, Sargon and his successors would do the same a few decades later. Meso- 
potamian armies of this time had the capacity to campaign over distances of several 
hundred miles. The lack of confirming evidence is probably due to the fact that 
Lugalzagesi was overthrown by Sargon shortly after his Tigris and Euphrates 
campaigns, leaving him no time to consolidate these fresh conquests. In a sense 
Lugalzagesi 's campaigns of the unification of Sumer paved the way for the rise of 
Sargon. By undermining the independent military strength of each individual 
Sumerian city-state, Lugalzagesi made it possible for Sargon to take all of Sumer by 
one great military victory — the defeat of Lugalzagesi himself, as will be chronicled 
in the next chapter. 

The sickle-sword 


Yadin, followed by many subsequent scholars, believed that the so called "sickle- 
sword" originated in Mesopotamia in the twenty-fourth ccntm\ I sec several 
phases of development of this weapon, with the classn su k h i "ur, <>nl\ 



in the Middle Bronze Age. The earliest evidence we have of a possible sickle- 
. word-style weapon comes from Early Dynastic Mesopotamia {2900—2300} (MW 
1 : 143). An Early Dynastic fragment of sculpture from Telloh shows a man with a 

ickle-like weapon on his shoulder (AM §44a; AW 1:136; see Figure 2a). This 

\ capon was also known in Early Dynastic Syria, where a cylinder seal depicts a 
i ii, in slaying a lion and a bull with a javelin wielded overhand in his right hand and 
i sickle-shaped weapon in his left hand (FI §78). There are two questions about 
these weapons: are they made from copper/bronze or wood? Do they have a 

1 1 1 ting edge or were they used as clubs? There is insufficient evidence give us a 
i ertain answer. As discussed below, I suspect that these Early Dynastic weapons 
represent fighting clubs, essentially the same as the similar weapons found in Egypt 

\W 1:158-9, 166-7; see p. 426). 
The next example of a possible Early Dynastic sickle-sword comes from the 
famous "Stele of Vultures" of king Eanatum of Lagash {c. 2440 (see Figure l)}. 33 

I I ere, however, the ambiguities are only increased. King Eanatum is shown in two 
different scenes holding the same curved sickle-like object. In the top scene the 
upper portion of the object is missing, while in the bottom scene the upper por- 
tion is partially defaced. The main oddity of this weapon is that it is clearly shown 

I I being composed of (at least) three separate parallel pieces. A first glance this 
feature might seem to be ribbing on the metal, as is found in some depictions of 

i i;',gers. But the object seems to be bound together in at least two places with thin 
popes. Since copper/bronze objects were invariably cast as a single piece, it seems 

mlikely that the artist was trying to depict a metal sickle-sword, or at least not of 
i he classical type found in the Middle Bronze period. None of the other soldiers in 
i Ins scene are carrying this type of object. While it is possible that this object was a 

u kle-sword, there is clearly ambiguity here. It may, in fact, be a scepter rather 
ih. in a weapon; an image of an enthroned deity from the Early Dynastic period 

hows the god holding both a mace and a curved club-like object in his left hand, 

•Inch broadly resemble the proposed early sickle swords (AM §65; cf. FI 821). 

\uother possibility is that Eanatum's weapon is actually a whip used to goad the 
Cquids in the chariot, such as is clearly depicted in several chariot scenes; 34 the 
most clear comparison is to an Old Babylonian scene (WV §31), 

The case against Eanatum's weapon being a sickle-sword is bolstered by the fact 

I i.ii the type of object held by Eanatum disappears during the subsequent Akkadian 

i ml Ur III periods {2300-2000}. If this object is the ancestor of the classic Middle 
Bronze sickle-sword, why does it disappear during the Akkadian period? Instead, 
the Akkadian sickle-sworcl-like weapon is clearly a type of axe. The haft and the 

lade of the Akkadian weapon would be about 60-75 cm long, judging by its 
proportion to the body - when the tip is resting on the ground the edge of the 
h iMille reaches to about the lower hip (FI §540, §781; see Figure 2c— e). The haft is 

ntnpletely straight until the last foot or so, which has a slight curve to it. A broad 
in tangular axe blade is fastened to the upper curved part of the haft; the wooden 
h.iti sometimes extends beyond the upper edge of the axe blade (FI §567, §781). 

the in i.iniMiLtt axe Made seems to he epsilon shaped (FI §781; see Figure 2b— c). 














Figure 2 Early and Middle Bronze Age weapons (drawings by Michael Lyon) 

(a) Warrior with throwing or fighting stick, similar in form to later "sickle 
swords" {c. 3000} (Relief from Telloh; Louvre AO 2350); see AM §44a. 

(b) Akkadian stele of warrior carrying a sheathed dagger on a belt in his right 
hand; an Akkadian war-axe showing the shape of the head and rivets is 
sheathed in his belt, partially obscured by a sash {23C}; (Iraq Museum 59205) 
see AM §119. 

(c) Uruk: Neo-Sumerian god with war- axe in age of Shulgi {21 C} (British 
Museum, 116719); see FI §781. 

(d) Mari: The goddess Ishtar holding a curved axe in her left hand; colored mural 
from the Palace of Zimri-Lim, "The Investiture of the king by Ishtar" {18C} 
(Louvre); see SDA §346. 

(e) Cylinder seal from Mari showing a god carrying a classic "sickle-sword" 
standing on a prostrate enemy {18C} (Louvre AO 21 988); see FI §191. 

(f) Classic "sickle-sword" from Abydos, Egypt {19CJ (Museum of the Oriental 
Institute, Chicago); see AW 1:172b. 

(g) Narrow-bladed "chisel" axe from Ras Shamra, Syria (Louvre); see MW 

2:276, §418. 
(h) Middle Kingdom Egyptian semi-circular axe; see EWW §23c. 
(i) Middle Kingdom Egyptian broad-bladed axe (British Musuem); see AW 

(j) Middle Bronze Age broad-bladed dagger from Tel Rehov, Israel; see MW 

2:434, §628. 
(k) Broad spearhead from Serrin, Syria (Oxford, Ashmolean Museum); see MW 

2:315, §47. 
(1) Spiked javelin head from Khirbet el-Krimil, Israel (Jerusalem, Hebrew Union 

College); see MW 2:336, §156. 


In a badly damaged relief of Sargon in a victory procession, he is followed by 
several attendants carrying what seem to be this type of "sickle-axe". 35 The clearest 
example of this weapon comes from a fragment of an Akkadian relief from Nasriyeh 
showing courtiers bringing tribute. In the upper-right-hand portion of this relief a 
soldier escorting prisoners is carrying a clearly depicted version of this axe (ME 108). 
In the lower-left section another man holds a sheathed bronze dagger in one hand, 
and a vase in the other. Inside his belt is a rectangular sickle-axe, about 75 cm long 
in proportion to his body (AAM 137; see Figure 2b). The sickle-axe is partially 
obscured by a sash, but enough of the top remains to show that the upper portion 
of the haft is partially curved and the haft extends beyond the top of the blade, just 
as in the other examples. Another clear example can be found in the twentieth- 
century relief of Anubanini in Iran (ME 20; PAE 319). The axehead is riveted to 
the metal bands which encircle the haft. I will call this weapon the "rectangular 
sickle-axe". I believe what occurred is that during the Akkadian period a rectan- 
gular axe blade was bolted to the curved scepter-club of the Early Dynastic period, 
representing the first step in the evolution towards the classic sickle-sword. 

At around 2000 the form of the Akkadian-style rectangular sickle-axe splits into 
two different forms of the weapon: the Babylonian curved sickle-axe, and the 
classic sickle-sword. The Babylonian version probably originated as a shift in the 
form of the axe blade from the original Akkadian rectangular blade to a semi-circular 
curved version of the sickle-axe found on Neo-Sumerian and early Old Babylo- 
nian cylinder seals (AW 1:150; AAM §138; FI §167, §772). The difference is 
subtle, but noticeable, and is transitional to the Babylonian curved sickle-axe. The 
Babylonian-style "curved sickle-axe" is held in precisely the same way in precisely 
the same ritual contexts as the Akkadian "rectangular sickle-axe". In some of the 
depictions it is possible to see that the blade of the curved sickle-axe is quite clearly 
a separate object from the wooden haft - they are not a single piece of cast bronze 
(SDA §383, 384; FI §538). The best examples of this come from the remarkable 
murals at the palace of Zimri-Lim in Mari {c. 1765 (Figure 2d)}. Here the war- 
goddess Ishtar holds a sickle-axe in her hand; the painting shows the curved 
wooden haft in one color, to which is attached a different colored crescent-shaped 
axe blade, on the top of the haft (SDA 279; AW 1:172). Overall the weapon has 
the distinctive curve of the Old Babylonian sickle-axe. Another mural from the 
palace shows the war-goddess with three hafted weapons in a quiver on her back - 
a mace, an axe, and a curved sickle-axe, again with distinctive colors for the haft 
and blade (SDA 282-3). 36 

The other line of development from the Akkadian rectangular sickle-axe leads 
to the classic Middle Bronze sickle-sword, found in both art and archaeology 37 A 
very clear cylinder seal from A4ari {1765} shows the new-style sickle-sword with 
precisely the features of the surviving archaeological examples of the classic sickle 
sword, but depicted in the same ritual context of the earlier Akkadian sickle-axe 
(FI §191; Figure 2e). Ritually speaking, in depictions of royal and divine icono 
graphy, the weapon was the same, even though the actual lm m <>l the weapon had 
gone through several transformations. In the classit mi kle '.umil the blade is 



tally rectangular (like the Akkadian sickle-axe). Essentially someone seems to 

1 1\ v taken the Akkadian rectangular sickle-axe, and cast the entire thing in bronze, 

ilt and blade, while retaining the original axe-like form. As with the Akkadian 

I (angular sickle-axe and the Babylonian curved sickle-axe, the sharp blade of the 

ipon occupies only the upper third, betraying its origin from the axehead. 

I rom surviving archaeological examples we can see that the classic sickle-sword 

j >i the distinctive quasi-rectangular form of the blade which was modeled after the 

Akkadian rectangular sickle-axe. Thus the Akkadian sickle-axe diverged into two 

I liferent forms in the Middle Bronze Age: the curved sickle-axe, and the classic 

I le-sword. The curved sickle-axe continued the original curvature of the haft, 

It kept the wooden haft and metal blade of the original. It seems likely that the 

ickl e- u sword" is actually a version of the axe, where the original wooden haft and metal 

Made are combined together and cast in a single piece. This would have served to 

lease breakage both of the haft and of the joint between haft and blade. The 

eapon also invariably appears only in royal and ritual contexts in both artistic and 

I laeological evidence. It is quite probably an elite or royal weapon (MW 1 : 170-1). 

I Hiring the Middle Bronze Age the new sickle-sword spread rapidly through- 

ni the Near East, appearing in Elam, Syria, Canaan, and eventually Egypt. 38 

I ".vpt seems to have been the last region to acquire the weapon. It doesn't appear 

in Middle Kingdom Egyptian art, making it likely that the weapon was initially 

U quired by Egyptians through trade or plunder from Canaan. There is mention of 

'iiiity-three "scimitars" - literally "reaping implements" (ECI 79 n49) - taken as 

plunder in Syria during the reign of Amenemhet II {1929-1895}. Presumably 

these are versions of the sickle-swords found in the royal tombs ofByblos in Syria 

Kid Shechem in Canaan during this period. The weapon does not seem to have 

1 teen manufactured in Egypt until the New Kingdom, when it frequently appears 

in a modified form as the Egypt khopesh (hps) y or scimitar, where the haft of the 

weapon is reduced to about one third and the blade extended to two thirds (AW 

1:206-7; FP 51). 

Warfare in Early Dynastic Elam {2900-2334} 39 

Although ethnically distinct and speaking their own language, the Elamites had in 
many ways been integrated economically and culturally with Sumer during the 
I talk expansion of the late fourth millennium. These bonds remained strong 
i hroughout the Early Dynastic period, during which we also have our first records 
M warfare between Elam and Sumer. In the Susa III phase of Elamite history 
13100-2700}, the early cultural predominance of Uruk expansion-style material 
i ulture is replaced by pottery and art styles derived from the eastern highlands of 
1 .us and I iirisran. Some speculate that this might be associated with the movement 
"I nomadic lughlanders into Elam, perhaps associated with "Awan", a name in 
Suinerian records for northern Elam (PAE 88-9, 97-8). 

An ' ■lamite kingdom, with its capital at Snsa and encompassing south-western 
ban flourished during the Early l)ynasti< oi Proro Elamite period (PAE 71-84; 



EA 5:106-10). The precise boundaries and nature of this state are uncertain. 
Cultural influence from Elam, including pottery styles and proto-Elamite tablets, 
are found throughout much of south-western and central Iran, indicating wide- 
spread cultural influence and merchant activity. In some ways, the Elamites 
became the suppliers for overland trade to Sumer for lapis lazuli, tin, and other 
Iranian products. How much political or military influence Elam might have 
exerted in other parts of Iran is unknown. 

Militarily, all we know of Elam during the Early Dynastic period derives from 
incidental references in Sumerian texts. The Sumerian King-list states that "Ur 
was defeated in battle and its kingship carried off to Awan" (KS 329) - either a 
city-state in Elam or an alternate Sumerian name for the region as a whole. Its 
location in the King-list would place the event in late Early Dynastic II, perhaps 
around 2550. Assuming there is some historicity to this claim, it would imply a 
major Elamite invasion of Sumer - perhaps Awan highlanders - which may have 
resulted in the vassalage of one or more Sumerian city-states to the Elamites (PAE 
88). Shortly thereafter, perhaps 2525, Enna'il, King of Kish, claims to have "van- 
quished Elam", probably ending this vassalage (PI 21). 

The major recorded wars of earliest Elamite history are with Eanatum of 
Lagash, who mentions campaigns in Elam a number of times in his inscriptions (PI 
37 ? 41-44; PAE 89). Lagash, on the south-east edge of the Mesopotamian flood- 
plain, was the closest Sumerian city-state to Elam, and had the most frequent 
economic relations with it (PAE 91). Eanatum claims to have defeated Elam, "the 
mountainous land of timber and treasure" (PI 37), and "made burial mounds" in it 
(PI 41). The details are elusive, but economic texts from Lagash in subsequent 
decades show extensive trade in grain, spices, wood, and silver (PAE 91). It is 
possible that Lagash exercised some type of suzerainty over Elam during the late 
twenty-fifth century.. Arrowheads, daggers, and a four-wheeled chariot were dis- 
covered in excavations at Susa dating to roughly this time (PAE 95), indicating the 
movement of Sumerian war-cart technology into the region by the twenty-fifth 
century. With the decline of Lagash military power beginning around 2400, the 
Elamites became independent again, and took to raiding their former suzerains. A 
text from about 2360 describes a raid by 600 Elamites into Lagash (KS 331) . It was 
undoubtedly only one of many. Thereafter we have no military information on 
Elam until the invasion of Sargon of Akkad and his successors in the late twenty 
fourth century. 


The Akkadian empire {2334-2190} 

nil the rise of the Akkadian empire we see a number of new characteristics 
pearing in Mesopotamian military history. 1 First, there is a fundamental shift in 
liitary power away from the ethnic Sumerians to Semitic-speaking peoples of 
niral and northern Mesopotamia. Second, although a few kings of the Early 

nastic period campaigned outside of the confines of Sumer itself, for the most 
ii i the military history of the Early Dynastic period focused on struggles among rival 
inierian city-states. With the rise of Akkad, Mesopotamia, Syria, and Elam are 

integrated into one diplomatic and political system. Third, the Akkadian warlords 
i induced new policies of destroying the walls of conquered cities to eliminate 

ii capacity to rebel, and of installing Akkadian governors in conquered cities 

1 1 iit than keeping the indigenous kings as vassals (R2:l 1-12), who presumably were 

Ipported by Akkadian garrisons. Thus, rather than trying to establish himself as 

gemon over rival vassal kings who had been defeated, Sargon deposed those 

s and took direct rule over an empire administered by appointed governors. 

The origins of the Akkadian empire are obscured by lack of sources, and by 
tny late legendary accounts. The site of Sargon's capital at Akkad is unknown, 

i (>ugh there is a general consensus that it was probably located in the region of 
- dern Baghdad at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates (EA 1:41-4). The 

ntual discovery of this site may produce additional information about the 

I idian Empire from tablets and monuments. Before the rise of Sargon, Akkad 
i' I never played an important political or military role in Mesopotamia. 

Sargon (Sharrukin) {2334-2279} 2 

ItCi preting the military career of Sargon is complicated both because most of his 
i iptions lack chronological data, and because of the large number of legends 

lih h grew up about him, making it sometimes difficult to distinguish between 
ibtory and legend. In this section I will mainly use contemporary sources written 
tin mg the lifetime of Sargon or his immediate successors. 

II the later legends are to be believed, Sargon was a usurper of the throne. He 
'. r,.in his career as the dependent ruler of Akkad under the hegemony of his 
\. iloul I Ii /aluha, king of Kish, whom legend claims he served as cup-bearer 



(KS 330). He may have been installed as governor of Akkad by Ur-Zababa. In his 
early reign 3 he rebelled against Ur-Zababa, perhaps after the latter had been wea- 
kened and his authority undermined in wars with Lugalzagesi of Uruk. Sargon 
successfully secured his independence, defeating several subsequent rulers of Kish 
during his early reign, and finally conquering the city of Kish itself. This early phase 
of his career, centering on the struggle with Kish for independence and pre- 
dominance in central Mesopotamia, apparently lasted from 2334 to around 2320. 
With his position in Akkad and central Mesopotamia finally secure, Sargon 
faced an even greater challenge. While Sargon was struggling with Kish, Lugalza- 
gesi of Uruk had risen to prominence in Sumer and even campaigned up the 
Euphrates and Tigris (see pp. 64-6). It seems likely that, during some part of 
Sargon's early reign, he was in some sense a vassal of Lugalzagesi - though the royal 
inscriptions of Sargon would of course never admit such a thing. Sargon's conquest 
of Kish was probably viewed by Lugalzagesi as an upstart vassal taking too much 
power. War broke out (R2:9— 22, 31), and at the battle of Uruk {c. 2316}, Sargon 
defeated the army of Uruk, including "fifty governors" or vassal rulers of Lugal- 
zagesi; one suspects that some of Lugalzagesi s vassals may have deserted him at a 
key moment in the battle, hoping his defeat would allow them independence, not 
realizing, of course, that Sargon was ultimately a greater threat to their indepen- 
dence than Lugalzagesi. Sargon claims to have personally captured the aging king 
Lugalzagesi (R2:16, 21), and to have led him captive in triumph to the Gate of 
Enlil at Akkad. 

Sargon, king of Akkad, steward of the goddess Ishtar, king of the world, 
anointed priest of the god Anum, lord of the land, governor [on earth] for the 
god Enlil, was victorious over Uruk in battle, conquered fifty governors [of 
Lugalzagesi] with the [divine] mace of the god Ilaba, as well as the city of 
Uruk, and destroyed [Uruk's] walls. Further, he captured Lugalzagesi, king of 
Uruk, in battle [and] led him off to the gate of the god Enlil in a neck stock. 
(R2:13) 4 

Sargon forced his royal captive to watch the erection of a victory stele (R2:15); 
Lugalzagesi 's ultimate fate is uncertain, but presumably he was executed, as was the 
Akkadian custom with captured kings: Naram-Sin "captured three kings and 
brought [them] before the god Enlil", after which they were apparently executed. 
Other captured kings were marched through cities in triumph, after which they 
were executed "before the gods" in their temples (R2:112, 138, 222). 

Following his victory over LJruk, Sargon faced a new challenge. The Sumerian 
vassal rulers had asserted their independence after the fall of their overlord Lugal- 
zagesi to Sargon, requiring him to undertake at least four additional campaigns in 
Sumer to secure Lugalzagesi s entire former domain (R2:10— 15). 

Sargon, king of Akkad, was victorious over Ur in kittle, iiMiquerrd the cits 
and destroyed its walls. He conquered luiinm.ii T ' < I u walls, .uu\ 



conquered its districts and Lagash as far as the sea [Persian Gulf]. He washed 
his weapons in the sea. He was victorious over Umma in battle, conquered 
the city, and destroyed its walls. (R2:14) 

I he important after-battle ritual washing of weapons was designed to cleanse them 
■•I blood and purify them (HTO 243). When inscriptions describe Sargon's 
veapons being washed "in the Upper and Lower Seas" (the Mediterranean and 
' rsian Gulf) (R2:ll, 32, 97), it was meant to indicate that Sargon had reached the 
nd of the world, and could therefore ritually cleanse his weapons, since there was 
nothing left to conquer (R2:ll, 14, 17). 

The destruction of the walls of conquered cities, while not unknown before, 
became a standard policy under Sargon. Presumably the city walls were not 
entirely destroyed, but were left with major breaches or without gates, rendering 
i hem indefensible and thereby making rebellion a very dubious proposition. The 
{bet that so many cities in the AJckadian empire repeatedly rebelled despite their 
ruined city walls is an indicator of the great hatred the conquered people had for 
their Akkadian overlords. A related policy undertaken by Sargon was to install loyal 
Akkadians as governors of conquered cities rather than allowing conquered kings 
|0 remain as vassal rulers: "from the Lower Sea to the Upper Sea citizens of Akkad 
beld the governorship [of conquered cities]" (R2:14). Sargon is also sometime 
(edited with creating the world's first standing army, based on one of his inscrip- 
tions where he claims "5400 men daily eat in the presence of Sargon" (R2:29). 
I his passage probably has reference to Sargon's palace establishment rather than an 
ictual standing army, and references to ration distribution to ministers, scribes, 
•i iests, courtiers, and perhaps even servants at the palace of Akkad. It is quite 
hkely that a portion of those 5400 men were in fact the Royal Bodyguard who 
brmed a permanent standing army. 

The exact chronological order of his subsequent conquests is uncertain, though 
* .e can identify four regions where Sargon campaigned: Elam, Subartu (northern 
Tigris), Syria, and perhaps south-central Anatolia. With Sumer secure, Sargon 
u ned towards a traditional enemy of Mesopotamia, Elam, in south-western Iran. 5 
I lis inscriptions describe thirteen cities or regions which he defeated and plun- 
< I* -ied, along with capturing a number of governors and generals, including both 
"Khishibrasini, king of Elam" and his son Lukh'ish'an. A victory stele erected at 
Busa shows Sargon, with thick beard and long hair tied in a braided bun at his 
i k, leading prisoners and booty in triumph after his capture of the city. 6 Elam 
MRS apparently not permanently subdued, however, for Sargon's son Rimish was 
- ompelled to campaign there again (see pp. 78-80). 

Sargon also campaigned into northern Mesopotamia (Cl/2:430— 2). A vague 
tradition records his victories in Subartu (northern Tigris), where he "defeated 
them, cast | their dead bodies] in heaps [of burial mounds], and overthrew their 
\\ ulespread host" (C 1/2:430). Nineveh and Ashur, the homeland of the Assyrians, 
vveie i learlv ruled by Sargon's successors, and presumably were conquered at this 
niin I'he pi ai tit e of piling the < orpses oft lead enemies and burying them on the 



battlefield is noted in the inscriptions, which seems to have served both as a reli- 
gious ritual, and as a victory monument reminding would-be rebels of the price of 
defeat (R2:53, 56, 129, 144). For example, "when [Shulgi] destroyed the land of 
Kimash and Hurtum, he dug a ditch and heaped up a pile of corpses" (R3/2:141; 

Sargon's campaigns up the Euphrates are more clearly documented in his own 
inscriptions (R2:12, 15, 28-31). Sargon began his campaign by seeking author- 
ization from the gods for his proposed conquest of Syria. At the city of Tuttul in 
the middle Euphrates . . . 

Sargon, the king, bowed down to the god Dagan in [his temple in the city of] 
Tuttul [seeking oracular confirmation for his plan to conquer Syria]. He [the 
god Dagan, through an oracular pronouncement] gave to him [Sargon] the 
Upper Land [Syria], [including the cities of] Mari, Yarmuti, and Elba as far as 
the Cedar Forest [of Lebanon] and the Silver [Taurus] Mountains. (R2:28-9) 

Archaeological evidence shows destructions of Mari and Ebla at this period, 
probably by the invasion of either Sargon or his grandson Naram-Sin (AS 277-9). 

There are also later legendary sources which claim that Sargon invaded south- 
central Anatolia and attacked Purushkhanda, in defense of Mesopotamian mer- 
chants who were being abused by local rulers. There is no confirmation of this 
campaign in contemporary Akkadian sources, but it is not inherently implausible, 
since Anatolia was an important source of silver for Mesopotamia, and would 
therefore have been an attractive source of plunder for Sargon (Cl/2:426-9). 

Overall, Sargon was clearly the greatest Mesopotamian conqueror before the 
Assyrian period some 1500 years later. In military terms his achievements are 

Sargon, king of the world, was victorious in thirty-four battles. He destroyed 
the [city] walls [of his enemies] as far as the shore of [both] the seas. He 
moored the ships of Meluhha [Indus Valley], Magan [Oman], and Dilmun 
[Bahrain] at the quay of Akkad.. . . 5,400 men daily eat in the presence of 
Sargon. (R2:28-29) ... He [the god Enlil] gave to Sargon [all the land from] 
the Upper Sea [to] the Lower [Sea]. Sargon [became] king of the [entire | 
world. (R2:32) 

He created the largest empire the world had yet known, stretching from the 
Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean, and encompassing most of modern Iraq and 
Syria, and over twice the size in population and land of contemporary Egypt. ' 
From another perspective, however, Sargon's empire was what we would call 
today a humanitarian disaster, for "the god Enlil instructed [Sargon to conquer the 
world] and he showed mercy to no one" (R2:32). Tins men iless feature of Sai 
gon's conquests, imitated by all his successors, fomented hatred foi 
Akkadian rulers, creating a constant underlvinr, ihie.u nl nl ' h< u 



1 1 lord finally died, his entire empire rose in revolt, only to be further suppressed 
mass devastation by his son Rimush (see pp. 78—80). 

Sargon as the ideal warrior-king (LKA 57-139) 

I lie reality of Sargon the Warlord as unifier of Mesopotamia was amplified by 

I'.equent generations. For later Mesopotamians Sargon served as the exemplar of 

conquering warlord, a mythic role similar to Alexander's or Caesar's in 

mope — two subsequent kings of Assyria took his name, In the past few decades 

holars have been able to reconstruct the legendary account of the life of Sargon. 

Ii hough the historical value of these texts for understanding Sargon's historic 

■II is limited - rather like the Alexander Romance in relation to the historic 

lexander — the legends are useful to illuminate the warrior mentality of the age 

hough these literary texts cannot necessarily be viewed as reliable history, they 

provide narrative detail of a typical rnilitary campaign that is often lacking in 

terse and propagandistic royal inscriptions. 

.irgon is described as ever eager for war: "Sargon girds his loins with his ter- 

ible weapons. In the palace, Sargon opens his mouth. Speaking to his warriors he 

lares: 'My warriors! With [the land of] Kanish I desire war!' " (LKA 109—11). 

irgon recognizes the logistical and intelligence problems facing his army in 

n|>aigning far from Akkad. When his advisors warn him, "The road, O my 

rd, that you wish to travel — it is month-long, it is dangerous" (LKA 111—13), 

argon summons merchants "who spy out the regions" to provide him with 

■ lligence to properly plan for the march (LKA 115-21). 

' )ii the eve of battle, Sargon is depicted as giving a speech to his assembled 

H Mors, admiring their "courage, strength, vigor [and] heroism" (LKA 63). His 

i Mors are compared to "strong bulls" (LKA 67). His champion responds, 

I -morrow, Akkad will commence battle. A festival of warriors will be cele- 

i ited" (LKA 63). The army is encouraged to act bravely "so the king [Sargon] 

ill proclaim you 'My Warrior' and erect your statue in front of his own statue" 

I KA 66—7). "My Warrior" may have been a technical term for personal guards. 

I he reference here to making monuments commemorating the bravest warriors 

I i .impaign may mean that some soldiers depicted along with the king on 

Akkadian monuments may represent actual individuals. The soldiers are described 

U wearing fine robes adorned with gold (LKA 67—9), perhaps like those depicted 

the Alabaster Victory Stele (AM §119; AFC §131). These may be robes of 

honor given as another type of reward for heroic soldiers. 

Sacrifices, prayers, and divination preceded and followed battle. 8 Armies are 

iv ided into center lines and two flanks (LKA 87, 181), and the troops are divided 

battalions (kisri) (LKA 65), armed with "maces and copper battleaxes" (LKA 

i S, irgon naturally fights in the front ranks (HTO 244-5), and is compared to a 

i in battle: ''Was it not because of his frightening radiance and his bellowing 

n i no one dared to approach him? I, Sargon, am your raging lion . . . When 

hcte is invoke my name!" (I KA W 101). This may be an allusion to 



shouting the king's name as a battle-cry. On another occasion the men shout 
"Charge, man against man!" (HTO 37) to launch an attack. 

Even after the battle is won, the enemy's capital must be besieged to win the 
final victory. Some narrative details of siegecraft are provided: 

Sargon undermined [the walls of] the city, broadened the Gate of the Princes, 
[he made a breach] two iku [c. 120 meters] wide. He cast it down; in the 
highest part of its wall he made a breach; he smote all of his wine-intoxicated 
men. Sargon placed his throne before the gate. Sargon opens his mouth, 
speaking to his warriors. He declares, "Come on! Nur-Daggal [the enemy 
king] ... Let him stir himself. Let him humble himself! Let me behold [him 
surrender]." (LKA 123-5) 

With his city walls undermined, Nur-Daggal panics and surrenders, negating the 
need for an assault into the breach. In victory the Akkadian army strips the 
countryside of both humans and animals, leaving the conquered city a heap ol 
ruins depopulated for miles around (LKA 71-3, 91). 

Rimush {2278-2270} 9 

Even during Sargon's lifetime, there were hints of rebellion among the conquered 
peoples of Mesopotamia (R2:30; Cl/2:433). It is clear there was substantial dis 
satisfaction with Akkadian rule, and upon Sargon's death most of the empire rose 
in revolt. Sargon's son and successor Rimush probably spent most of his short reign 
trying to keep his empire in one piece. It is difficult to obtain an accurate picture 
of the extent and success of these rebellions, since they are only mentioned in the 
Akkadian annals after they have been suppressed; successful rebellions are never 

Rimush recorded a lengthy inscription in which he details his suppression oi 
these rebellions. His inscription, however, is highly formulaic, repeating over ami 
over that a city revolted, Rimush defeated it, killed and captured a certain number 
of men, captured the rebel leaders, and destroyed the walls of the rebellious city. 
Here is an example: 

Rimush, king of the world, was victorious over Adab and Zabala in battle and 
struck down 15,718 men. He took 14,576 captives. Further, he captured 
Meskigala, governor at Adab, and Lugalgalzu, governor of Zabala. He con 
quered their two cities and destroyed the walls of both of them. Further, ln- 
expelled many men from their two cities and annihilated them. (R2:41) 

After six campaigns, Rimush had apparently suppressed the rebellion, con 
eluding that, like his father, he "[was] king of the [entire| world tin- god Enlil did 
indeed grant kingship to him. ... He took aw.iv ihen iniuitr |hom defeated 
enemies from| as far as the Lower Sea | Persian < nill| I' 



1 lie inscriptions of Rimush introduce a new element into Akkadian military 
i lice: mass slaughter, enslavement, and deportation of defeated enemies, and 
Be total annihilation of their cities (R2:42, 44, 46, 48). The policy was that, if a 
itv rebelled against the king of Akkad, that city should be utterly destroyed as a 
lining to others contemplating revolt. Rebellion against the king was tanta- 
mount to rebellion against the gods. Table 3.1 summarizes the casualty reports 
iom Rimush s inscriptions, emphasizing the widespread human suffering caused 
Akkadian imperialism. 

The names of a number of important captured aristocrats are also given, 

hiding Kaku, king of Ur (R2:46— 7). Since Ur had been previously captured by 

irgon, this would indicate either that he had left Kaku as vassal prince of Ur, or 

I ii Kaku restored kingship in Ur as part of the rebellion. Other cities in Sumer 

described as being ruled by rebellious "governors" (enst). To the extent that the 

ines given by Rimush are not pure fabrications — he repeatedly insists "by the 

ods Shamash and Ilaba I swear that [these] are not falsehoods, [but] are indeed 

mie", perhaps protesting too much (R2:49, 54, 57-8) - these numbers undoubt- 

llv represent casualties among the entire civilian population of the defeated cities, 

| idier than just numbers of soldiers. 10 If so, they represent the first evidence for a 

w policy of mass destruction as punishment for rebellion, one which will endure 

• i several thousand years in the Near East, bearing terrible fruit under the 

\ssyrians and Babylonians, and which continues to be practiced by some modern 

lit Idle Eastern tyrants who, like the ancient Akkadians, rule with blood and 

horror upon the earth. 

I laving solidified his rule, Rimush launched a campaign against Parahshum in 
I lam, winning a great victory at the battle of the Middle River {c. 2273}, for 
• huh we have a detailed description (PAE 103-6; ME 100-2). 

Kimush, king of the world, w^as victorious in battle over Abalgamash, king of 
Parahshum. Zahara, Elam, [Gupin, and Meluhha,] 11 had assembled in Para- 
hshum. for battle, but he [Rimush] was victorious [over them] and struck 
down 16,212 men [and] took 4,216 captives. Further, he captured Emahsini, 
king of Elam, and all the [nobles?] of Elam. Further, he captured Sidga'u, 
general of Parahshum, and Sargapi, general of Zahara, in between [the cities of] 
A wan and Susa, by the "Middle River". Further, he heaped up over them a 

/.//'/c *. / Summary of enemy casualties from Rimush's campaigns 






Lib and Zabala 





i Imma and KI.AN 





1 i iinl 1 agasli 





1 Imr kittles in Sinner 









R2:48, 51 

' u .I hvhntn (Flam) 

16,21 I 






burial mound in the area of the city. Further, he conquered the cities of Elam, 
destroyed their walls, and tore out the foundations of Parahshum from the 
land of Elam. [Thereby] Rimush, king of the world, ruled Elam. The god 
Enlil showed him [the way to victory] . . . When he conquered Elam and 
Parahshum, he took away 30 minas [roughly a pound each] of gold, 3,600 
minas of copper and 300 male and female slaves and dedicated [them] to the 
god Enlil. (R2:52-5) 

An interesting element of this inscription is the reference to troops from. 
Meluhha - the Indus Valley civilization - serving in the anti-Akkadian coalition at 
the battle of the Middle River. 12 Rimush saw this victory as definitive for his 
reign, describing himself in later inscriptions as "Rimush, king of the [entire] 
world: the god Enlil gave to him all the land. He holds the Upper Sea and the 
Lower Sea and all the mountain [lands] for the god Enlil" (R2:59). Overall 
Rimush managed to keep much of the Akkadian empire together after significant 
rebellions, and solidified Akkadian power in Elam. 

Manishtusu {2269-2255} 


According to later legend, Manishtusu usurped the throne after the murder of his 
brother in a palace coup; certainly Rimush's reign was rather short. As was usual at 
Akkadian succession, his reign began with a general uprising of most conquered 
provinces, which was probably an extension of the revolts against his predecessor 
Rimush: "all the lands . . . which my father Sargon left had in enmity revolted 
against me [Manishtusu] and not one stood fast" (Cl/2:437— 8). There is no 
account of his suppression of this revolt, but he apparently maintained control over 
most of the empire. An inscription from Ashur indicates that the local ruler Azuzu 
recognized Manishtusu as his overlord (ATS). 

The military affairs of Manishtusu's reign are poorly documented. His single 
martial inscription alludes to two great campaigns: 

Manishtusu, king of the world: when he conquered Anshan and Shirihum [in 
south-west Iran], had . . . ships cross the Lower Sea [Persian Gulf]. The cities 
across the Sea, thirty-two [in number], assembled for battle, but he was vic- 
torious [over them]. Further, he conquered their cities, struck down their 
rulers, and after he roused them [his troops] plundered as far as the Silver 
Mines. He quarried the black stone of the mountains across the Lower Sea, 
loaded [it] on ships, and moored [the ships] at the quay of Akkad. He fash- 
ioned a statue of himself [and] dedicated [it] to the god Enlil (R2:75-6). 

Here we see a first campaign into eastern Elam, solidifying and even expanding 
the conquests of his brother in that region. (Anshan is Til i M.ilv.m near modern 
Shiraz, while Shirihum is the area west of modern Bandai A hi lis i 1 hereafter, he 
launched a major maritime campaign "across the I. own Si i <>\ the [Vim. m (hill. 



The specific target of this offensive is not named, but there are three lands gen- 
ially reached via the Persian Gulf during this period: Dilmun (Bahrain), Magan 
'( )man) and Meluhha (Indus delta). Most scholars assume it to be Oman, since it is 
i source of the "black stone" which is probably diorite (R2:117). None of the 
ihree regions can be excluded, however. Given the mention of a Melluhan con- 
migent allied with the Elamites at the earlier battle of the Middle River against 
R imush, it is possible that Manishtusu's expedition included a punitive raid on the 
Indus delta as well. The ability of the Akkadians to launch a successful maritime 
\pedition in the Persian Gulf in the twenty- third century BC indicates a fairly 
' >phisticated level of administration and logistics, as well as ocean-going naval 
technology. Manishtusu's ocean campaign (c. 2260) comes almost a century after 
Veni's maritime campaign against Canaan (c. 2340) (see pp. 336-40); together 
hese events represent the beginning of recorded naval warfare. 

Naram-Sin {2255-2218} 


Mier his grandfather Sargon, Naram-Sin was the greatest of the Akkadian 
warlords. The widespread use of terror and massacre by his uncle Rimush to sup- 
press revolts had done little to endear the people of Mesopotamia to their 
Akkadian rulers, and Naram-Sin 's rule was likewise inaugurated with a massive 
i -volt. 15 

When the four quarters [i.e. the entire world] together revolted against him, 
[which] no king whosoever had [ever] seen [before]: when Naram-Sin, the 
mighty, [was] on a mission for the goddess Ishtar, all the four quarters together 
revolted against him and confronted [him] (R2:96).. . . Through the love 
which the goddess Ishtar showed him, he was victorious in nine battles in one 
year, and the [three] kings whom [the rebels] had raised [against him], he 
captured. (R2:113) 

| >l course the suppression of the rebellion was not nearly as straightforward as 

jatam-Sin wanted to make it seem. The exact order of the different phases of the 
$ bellion and its suppression cannot be established, since the inscriptions lack a 

limnology. None the less, it is clear that the rebellions nearly toppled the empire. 

As the rebellion began, the newly independent city-states elevated anti-Akka- 

lian rulers as new kings, and organized large coalitions to oppose Naram-Sin. 

Akkad's old rival Kish rebelled under Iphur-Kish, rallying half-a-dozen cities to his 

i use, enlisting the aid of Amorite bedouins (shadu) (R2:104, 109), serving as an 
ominous precursor to the Amorite invasion and migration into Mesopotamia in 
Hlbsequent decades (see pp. 157-9). As leader of the rebel coalition, Iphur-Kish 
mustered his force and marched toward Akkad, where "he drew up battle lines 
|hefore the eity| and awaited battle" at the "Field of the God Sin" (R2:104). 
With a rebel army at the gates of Akkad, Naram-Sin was seriously threatened: 

N.imiii Sm, tlu' mij'Jiiy, |mobili/ed| his young men there [in Akkad], and he held 



Akkad. He closed [the city gates]" against Iphur-Kish (R2:104-5; LKA 255-7), 
Rather than face a lengthy siege, which would only give other cities the oppor- 
tunity and motive to join the rebellion, Naram-Sin mustered his army and 
immediately attacked Iphur-Kish. "In the field of the god Sin the two of them 
engaged in battle and grappled with each other. By the verdict of the goddess 
Ishtar-Annunitum, Naram-Sin, the mighty, was victorious over the Kishite 
[Iphur-Kish] in battle at Tiwa", capturing "300 officers and 4932 captives" 
(R2:105— 6). Thereafter Naram-Sin pursued the routed rebels: 

Further, he [Naram-Sin] pursued him [Iphur-Kish] to Kish, and right beside 
Kish, at the gate of the goddess Ninkarrak, the two of them engaged in battle 
for a second time, and grappled with each other. By the verdict of the goddess 
Annuntium and the god Anum, Naram-Sin, the mighty, was [again] victor- 
ious over the Kishite in battle at Kish. (R2:106) 

Another 3015 men were captured in battle, and the city and its walls were 
destroyed. 16 

The immediate threat to Akkad was thus averted, but unfortunately for Naram- 
Sin, rebellion spread rapidly throughout Sumer. Ur and Uruk had joined lphur- 
Kish's coalition (R2:109), but, because of Naram-Sin's swift response and victory, 
they were apparently unable to arrive with their armies in time to face Naram-Sin 
in the initial battles. After the fall of Kish, rebellion continued in southern Sumer 
under the leadership of Amar-Girid of Uruk, who formed an alliance with nearly 
all the Sumerian city-states including Ur, Lagash, Umma, Adab, Shuruppak, Isin, 
and Nippur (R2:107). Amar-Girid "drew up battle lines" near Ashnak (R2:108). 
Wasting no time, Naram-Sin "hastened" to successfully attack Amar-Girid 
(R2:108), thereby apparently crushing the rebellion in Sumer. In all, Naram-Sin 
was victorious in nine battles in a single year {2255}, capturing three of the rebel 
kings (R2:113, 115-17; LKA 260-1). By any military standard it was a remarkable 

In grateful recognition for the divine intervention that preserved Naram-Sin 's 
rule and saved city of Akkad, the people of Akkad spontaneously prayed that the 
gods might accept Naram-Sin as one of their own — at least if you believe Naram- 
Sin's account: 

In view of the fact that [Naram-Sin] protected the foundations of his city 
[Akkad] from danger, [the citizens of] his city requested from [the following 
gods] - Ishtar in [the temple of] Eanna, Enlil in Nippur, Dagan in Tuttul, 
Ninhursag in Kes, Ea in Eridu, Sin in Ur, Shamash in Sippar, (and) Nergal in 
Kutha - that [Naram-Sin] be [made] the god of their city, and they built 
within Akkad a temple [dedicated] to hirn [as a god]. (R2:l 14) 

Thereafter Naram-Sin took the title "king of the fom ipi.nh i meaning the 
entire world, and was frequendy called the "god of Akkad" (C1/2:44<H As with 


Alexander the Great, it is impossible to determine whether this self-deification was 
megalomania, shrewd propaganda, or a sincere religious belief- or, most likely, a 
■mbination of all three. 

The rebellion against Akkadian rule was not limited to Sumer, however; city- 
•aates in northern Mesopotamia (Subartum) revolted as well. Naram-Sin appar- 
ntly undertook two campaigns in this region. 17 The first, up the Tigris river 
illey, is poorly documented (R2: 125—30). He claims to have "smashed the 
.veapon of all of [the land of] Subartum" and to have conquered "fourteen for- 
:i esses" (R2:141— 3): Naram-Sin boasts of having "reached the source of the Tigris 
River and the source of the Euphrates River" during his campaigns (R2:140). 

With the Tigris Valley subdued, Naram-Sin turned his attention to the 
I nphrates, where the revolt was galvanized under the leadership of the lord of 
\pishal, swearing to fight Naram-Sin "whether I die or keep myself alive" 
K2:91, 141). 18 One inscription gives us a feel for the nature of Naram-Sin's 
uiipaign and an itinerary of his march against this northern rebellion (cf. 
' ': 1 25). The rebels mustered their troops and marched to the battle of Mt. Bashar 
|ebel Bishri on the west bank of the Euphrates in Syria): 

Naram-Sin, went from Ashimananum to ShishiL At Shishil he crossed the 
Tigris River and [went] from Shishil to the [east] bank of the Euphrates 
River. Ele crossed the Euphrates River and [went] to [Mount] Bashar, the 
Amorite mountain.. . . He [Naram-Sin] marched to Habshat. Naram-Sin, 
[going] from the Euphates River, reached Bashar, the Amorite mountain, He 
personally decided to fight: [the two armies] made battle and fought one 
another. By the verdict of the goddess Ishtar, Naram-Sin, the mighty, was 
victorious in battle over Apishal at [Mount] Bashar, the Amorite mountain.. , . 
He struck down in the campaign a total, of 9 chiefs and 4,325 men. Naram- 
Sin, the mighty captured [?] captives and the king of Apishal.. . . [He cap- 
tured] leaders and chiefs, as well as 5,580 captives. [Enemy casualty list for this 
campaign]: Total: 6 generals. Total: 17 governors. Total: 78 chiefs. Total: [?] 
captains.. . . [Grand] total: [?] kings. [Grand] total: 13 generals. [Grand] total: 
23 governors. Grand total: 2,212 chiefs. Grand total: 137,400 men [including 
civilian casualties?]. The god Enlil showed [him the way and] Naram-Sin, the 
mighty, struck down as many as there were in the campaign, and captured 
| them]. (R2:91-4) 

I Vspite the probable hyperbole in the total of 137,400 casualties he claims to have 
miii cted on his enemies, this inscription makes clear the magnitude of the oppo- 
sition to Naram-Sin, with over two dozen city-states allied against him, together 
with the Amorite tribesmen from the Syrian Desert (R2:93). 

I lis subjugation of the rebellion in the northern Euphrates left him in a position 
to undertake tint her campaigns into Syria (R2:163, 167). Naram-Sin's inscription 
describing Ins conquest of Armanum (Aleppo?) and Ebla contains the most 
mi port an I description ol fortifications anil siegecraft lor this period. 10 



Whereas, for all time since the creation of mankind, no king whosoever had 
destroyed Armanum [Aleppo?] and Ebla, the god Nergal, by the means of [his 
divine] weapons opened the way for Naram-Sin, the mighty, and gave him 
Armanum and Ebla [through conquest]. Further, he gave to him [by con- 
quest] the Amanus [Mountains], the Cedar Mountain, and the Upper Sea. By 
means of the [divine] weapons of the god Dagan, who magnifies his kingship, 
Naram-Sin, the mighty, conquered Armanum and Ebla. Further, from the 
[west] side of the Euphrates River as far as [the city of] Ulishum, he smote the 
people whom the god Dagan had given to him for the first time, so that they 
perform service for the god Ilaba, his god. Further, he totally [conquered] the 
Amanus, the Cedar Mountain (RS2:163, 167). 

The regions described here are all in western Syria. The Amanus Mountains are 
the range north-west of modern Antioch, while the Cedar Mountain is in modern 
coastal Syria or Lebanon. From central Syria Naram-Sin marched to the 
Mediterranean Sea and to "Talkhatum", apparently in south-central Anatoli;) 
(C 1/2: 442-3). At least large portions of Syria were incorporated into the 
Akkadian empire, with Nagar (Tell Brak) in northern Mesopotamia becoming 
the main Akkadian administrative center, flourishing during this period (AS 

With Syria subdued and his conquests extended to the "Upper Sea" or the 
Mediterranean, Naram-Sin turned his attention to the Akkadian overseas domain 
in the Persian Gulf, which had been established by his father Manishtusu. His 
army "crossed the [Lower] Sea and conquered Magan [Oman], in the midst of the 
sea", capturing its ruler Manium (R2:97, 117, 138, 140, 163). Naram-Sin also 
attacked Elam and Parahshum in south-western Iran, but these campaigns arc 
poorly documented (R2:130, 167; PAE 106-8; ME 105-16). There is archae 
ological evidence of direct Akkadian rule in Elam in the form of victory monu- 
ments and other Akkadian artifacts. 

Ominously, the inscriptions of Naram-Sin include a vague reference to 
"smiting the people and all the [Zagros] Mountain Lands for the god Enlil" 
(R2:138, 140). Mountain Peoples, or highlanders (shadu) is a somewhat vague 
term, but is generally understood to refer to fierce mountain tribes of the Zagros 
Mountains. Evidence of direct Akkadian rule in part of the central Zagros is 
found in copper and stone votive maceheads which were discovered in the aren 
(ME 112). Most importantly, the famous Victory Stele of Naram-Sin describes 
a punitive campaign against the highlander tribal confederation of the Lullubu in 
the central Zagros (AANE §49; Figure 3): "Satuni, the king of the the highlanders 
of Lullubum assembled together . . . [for] battle. . . . [Naram-Sin] heaped up a 
burial mound over them . . . [and] dedicated [this object, the stele] to the god 
[who granted victory]" (R2:144). The Lullubu highlanders who "assemble*! 
together" to attack Akkad were an ominous precursor to tin- invasion of Akkadian 
empire by Gutian highlanders within a few years aftn N.u.nn Sin's de.ilh (see 
pp. 102-4). 



Akkadian martial art 

• liven the warlike nature of the Akkadian kings, the fact that we have only nine 
irviving pieces of Akkadian monumental martial art — all but two of them 

h.igmentary — clearly emphasizes the point that we are at the mercy of random 
lance for both survival and discovery of our evidence for ancient Near East 
rilitary history. I will examine each of these pieces here for the insights they can 
ive us into Akkadian military history 

Victory Stele of Sargon (Susa). 20 King Sargon, identified by an inscription, is 
shown in procession with soldiers and prisoners (AM §115). This badly 
damaged stele, which is a small fragment of a much larger original relief that 
probably included item lb below, consists of only half of two panels. The 
upper panel shows a row of naked prisoners with their arms bound behind 
them at the wrist. The lower, more important panel shows Sargon leading a 
victory procession. Sargon is dressed in a robe, with his long hair and beard 
precisely matching the famous bronze bust of an Akkadian ruler (9, below). 
He may have a dagger in his belt. Two characteristics of the stele make it 
slightly possible that Sargon is riding in a war-cart. First, there is a triangle of 
damaged rough stone in front of Sargon, about waist high. It is in high relief, 
and if Sargon were walking one would expect this portion of the panel to be 
in low relief, as is the rest of the background on the stele. This piece of the 
stele is in the rough shape of the upper front of a two-wheeled war-cart from 
the period (see WV §8, §13, §17, §18, §31), but is too damaged to see any 
confirming details. Something is there, which has the vague shape of a war- 
cart; if it is not a war-cart, what is it? Second, Sargon is taller than the rest of 
his soldiers; this may be because of the widespread tradition in Near Eastern 
martial art of representing the king as larger than ordinary mortals, but may 
also be because he is standing on a war-cart. The bottom and front part of 
image that would have shown the wheels and equids are both missing. Sargon 
is followed by a courtier carrying either a standard, a banner, or perhaps a 
parasol. Behind march five soldiers with long pleated robes on their left 
shoulders and carrying large Akkadian battle-axes. 21 

1 D The Prisoner Stele of Sargon (Susa). This shows prisoners led by an Akkadian 
soldier with an axe (AFC §127). 22 This is likely, but not certainly, a different 
piece of stele la. It shows an Akkadian soldier in a kilt with a broad-headed 
battle-axe escorting naked prisoners with their arms bound behind their backs 
at the wrist. 

I The War-net stele of Sargon (Susa) (AAM §126-7; AFC 193). This highly 
fragmentary relief shows a war-net scene based on iconography quite similar 
to Ningirsu's war-net on the Stele of the Vultures (see pp. 55-9). Here Sargon 
holds a net in which a dozen enemy prisoners are ensnared. As with Ningir- 
su's net, one prisoner is trying to escape and is being bashed on the head by 
Saigon's mate, Sargon is presenting the net to the war goddess Ishtar 



(Sumerian Inana) who is seated on her throne. All we see is her skirt, and a 
mace over her shoulder (presumably in a quiver on her back), which icono- 
graphically point to Ishtar. 

Stele of Rimush (two sides) (from Telloh) (AFC §129a-b; Figure 5e, p. 219). 23 
All that survives of this stele is one triangular fragment with reliefs on both 
sides. Parts of three panels of war-scenes are shown on either side, On side one, 
the upper panel depicts two archers with their tassel ed quivers on their backs, 
and vague outlines of bows; they are very similar to an archer from an Akkadian 
cylinder seal (AFC §139). The second panel of side one shows an archer with a 
drawn bow. In front of him, a soldier with an axe dispatches a naked enemy. 
The third panel shows a man wielding his pike with two hands, stabbing a fallen 
enemy who is missing from the fragment. The second side, panel one, shows a 
soldier carrying a large axe. On the second panel, a soldier dispatches a kneeling 
man pleading for his life. Behind him, a soldier with a long 2. 5-meter pike 
escorts a prisoner. This man's marching stance with his pike is very similar to 
that in the Victory Stele of Naram-sin (4), On the feet just below the pikeman 
is the head of an archer with the top of his bow visible. Taken together we see 
four archers, three axemen and two pikemen. 

Victory Stele of Naram-Sin (AANE §49; Figure 3). The the most famous 
Akkadian martial monument, 24 this stele shows the king and his army 
ascending into the Zagros Mountains and defeating the Lullubu highlanders. 
This scene is the first in the history of Mesopotamian martial art to attempt to 
depict the natural terrain of the battlefield in a single scene rather than in 
stylized panels. The terrain shows a number of ridges covered with trees and a 
high mountain peak in the background. The inscription reads in part, "Satuni, 
the king of the highlanders of Lullubum assembled together . . . [for] battle.. . . 
[Naram-Sin defeated them and] heaped up a burial mound over them . . . [and] 
dedicated [this object, the stele] to the god [who granted victory]'* (R2:144). 
The Lullubu soldiers, with their distinctive long braided pony tails, are shown 
in an utter rout. Several lie dead; one has an arrow or javelin protruding from his 
neck. Another falls from the mountain. Two more run away, one with a broken 
pike. The Lullubi king Satuni stands before Naram-Sin, begging for his life. 
The Akkadian army, on the other hand, marches boldly forward in good order. 
All six of the Akkadian soldiers wear kilts and helmets, broadly similar to 
those shown in the earlier Sumerian Standard of Ur and Stele of the Vultures 
(Figure 2). They all also have narrow-bladed axes for melees. Two carry war 
banners, two hold 2.5-meter pikes at the butt, resting the shaft on the shoulder 
like a rifle on the parade-ground. The fifth Akkadian has a bow, while the sixth 
seems to have an axe. The heroic Naram-Sin leads his army into battle on the 
crest of the mountain, standing twice as tall as anyone else, and stepping on the 
bodies of fallen enemies. He has a similar kilt, but has a thick beard and loin-, 
hair, and wears a horned crown symbolic of his divinity. In his hand he carries an 
axe, a bow, and an arrow. His bow is often said to be the eaihest reprcscnta 
tion of a composite bow, an issue that will be ilis< m < d !■■ !'■ • pp N'J ( >S) 



/ igure 3 The "Victory Stele" of Naram-Sin, Akkadian {c. 2230} 
nice: Louvre, Sb 4; drawing by Michael Lyon. 

Darband-i-Gawr rock cut relief of Naram-sin (AAM §157; Figure 5d, p. 218). 
This gives a different version of the events depicted on Naram-Sin's victory 
stele (4). The king is shown in precisely the same martial pose, striding for- 
ward to victory carrying a bow and a mace or axe. Beneath him are the fallen 
bodies of the dead Lullubu highlanders, again with long braided ponytails. 
I Royal Stele of Naram-Sin (from Pir-Hussein), (AFC §130). 25 This stele shows 
the king in courtly robes in a ritual pose. In each hand he holds the haft of a 
weapon, probably an axe or a mace; unfortunately, the heads of both weapons 
are missing. 

Alabaster Victory Stele (from Nasiriyya). The three fragments show a triumph 
scene of yoked prisoners and booty with an armed Akkadian escort. 26 Frag- 
ment A (left, AM §119), shows two Akkadian soldiers bearing booty, includ- 
ing two nicely rendered bronze daggers in leather sheaths and belts. The 
Akkadian solider wears a long kilt with a sash-like fringed robe over his 
shoulder, and a helmet/cap with stripes, either striations on metal, or colored 
bands. The solider has a broad-headed axe thrust in his belt. A comparison 
with the dress of soldiers in combat leads me to suspect that this is the court 
dress of the bodyguard, rather than combat dress. Fragment B (center, AM 
I '<>) shows .i line of naked prisoners with their arms bound behind them at 



the elbows, yoked together at the neck with long poles. The middle soldier 
has a beard and a long braided ponytail similar to the Lullabi soldiers on the 
Naram-Sin Victory Stele (4; see also 8). Fragment C (right, AFC §131) shows 
an Akkadian guardsman wearing the same robes and helmet as the soldier i 
Fragment A. He holds a broad-headed battle-axe which is nicely rendered, 
showing the details of the blade and how it was riveted to the haft. Above him 
are the feet of another guardsman with what appears to be the spiked-shape 
head of a spear pointing downward. 

Vase. This shows a bound highlander captive, with long beard and braided 
hair similar to that of the Lullubu (SDA 190-1; AANE §367), and the prisoners 
in 4 and 7. 

Cast bronze bust of Sargon or Naram-Sin. Technically not a piece of martial 
art, this is however the most striking example of royal iconography, and shows 
details of how the hair of the king, and possibly other warriors, was braided 
and bound for combat. 27 

Other sources of martial art 

Akkadian period weapons included the mace, dagger, bow, javelin, narrow-headed 
axe, broad axe, spear, and pike, all of which are depicted on contemporary cylindci 
seals; several have surviving archaeological examples. Contest scenes depicting ; 
grappling with animals or mythical creatures may show ancient wrestling stance", 
(FI §95-1.01 §703), and presumably Akkadian warriors were trained to fighi 
without weapons. In other hand-to-hand combat the dagger is frequently used 
(FI §566, §876). A finely rendered and well preserved glyptic scene shows 
four armed men, one with bow, arrow, and quiver, one with javelin, and two with 
small narrow-headed axes (AFC §139, §150; FI §641). The two-handed long spear 
or pike makes a frequent appearance in Akkadian art. In one scene two gods 
attack a seven-headed monster with longs spear held overhand with both hands 
(FI §840). 

The mace is actually the most frequently represented weapon in Akkadian 
cylinder seals, but it appears mainly in mythical scenes of combat between heroes 
monsters, and gods, where the mace is a primary weapon (FI §445, 516, §77* * 
§849; AFC §143-4, §156-7; AM §113b). Sometimes maces appear in ritual poses 
but other times they are used in combat (FI §126), where a broken mace shaft is a 
symbol of defeat (AFC §156; AM §113b). Some scenes show maces with handles 
roughly a meter long which would best be wielded with two hands (FI §103- 5 
§126, §896). One god holds two large maces, one in each hand (FI §896). The 
widespread presence of the mace in Akkadian glyptic art may be because of ico- 
nographic conservatism resulting in representing archaic weapons in mytliii al 
scenes, since the mace is rarely seen in actual combat scenes between humans 
Thus, these mythic scenes may not tell us about real Akkadian - > ipomv, but Un- 
certainly show the importance of the mace in earliei times 



(Vtesopotamian archery and the Akkadian composite bow 28 

I 963 Yigael Yadin, in his magisterial study The Art of Warfare in Biblical Lands, 29 
ned that two Akkadian stelae depict "the very first representation of the com- 

iie bow in the history of ancient weapons". He maintained that the Akkadian 
mposite bow "explains . . . [how] the Akkadians were able to conquer and gain 
'ii union over Mesopotamia.. . . It is indeed no exaggeration to suggest that the 

ention of the composite bow with its comparatively long range was as revolu- 

nary, in its day, and brought comparable results, as the discovery of gunpowder 
ousands of years later" (AW 1:47-8). Yadin later included a then newly dis- 

ered archery scene from Mari as a third example of what he believed to be the 
•i Mposite bow in Akkadian times (Figure 5c, p. 218). 30 Since Yadin, many scholars 

-• accepted this interpretation. 31 The standard interpretation holds that, during 

Akkadian period, the combination of the greater range and power of the 

i nposite bow, with the added penetrating power of bronze arrowheads, gave a 

i isive tactical advantage to Akkadian archers. Thus, the Akkadian conquests 

re due at least in part to the new technological innovation of the composite 
iw with bronze-tipped arrows. 

In order properly to evaluate Yadin 's argument, we need to re-examine the 

idence for the development of Mesopotamian archery, some of which has been 

iblished since Yadin's book, and some of which Yadin did not consider. The 

1 1 1 x of Yadin's argument for the development of the composite bow in the 

Mty-fourth century is based on an interpretation of three artistic depictions of 

> bow. As far as I can tell, no one has presented any archaeological or textual 

idence for the composite bow before the Middle Bronze period. Yadin's argu- 

■ I- mi, then, rests entirely on the iconographic interpretation of these three pieces 

martial art. To properly interpret their significance, these depictions need to be 
►laced in the broader context of Mesopotamian artistic representations of bows 
id archery. 

I he bow was known in the Neolithic Near East by at least 6000, and 
M.loubtedly much earlier (EBD). Many figures depicted at Catal Hoyuk {c. 
000] use the bow (CH 171, §54, 61-4; xiii). Likewise Syrian pottery {sixth 
nillennium} 32 and Mesopotamian pottery {c. 4200} have examples of hunter/ 

■ ii riors with bows (AANE §186); these weapons seem to be simple wooden self 
bows. The bow is also well represented in Pre-Dynastic {3500-3000} Mesopota- 
mia!) martial art. The Priest-king figure (see pp. 37—39) is shown using the bow 
'"i hunting and in a siege. The most famous archery scene is the Uruk lion- 
liuni, u in which the nocks of the bow are clearly recurved. However, this scene is 

ml the most informative. Less well-know are cylinder seals showing the Priest- 
\ \\\\\ limiting bulls using the same type of bow (Figure 5a, p. 218; AFC 23; FI 
f|u83), and. in target practice (FI §682). In two siege scenes the Priest-king again 
the same bow (AFC 24; FI §743; PAE 68/2), which is also found in a 
mythological F.arlv 1 )ynastic hunting scene (FI §993). Burials at Susa in Elam from 
the early third millennium included copper arrowheads (PAE 95). All of these 



depictions seem to show the same type of bow. It is fairly large proportionally 
(a 100 cm), going from above the head to the waist when drawn. It is also clearly 
recurved at the nocks or tips of the bow. The most pronounced recurvature is 
found on the Uruk lion-hunt stele, but every example shows some degree 
recurvature at the nocks. My suspicion is that the Uruk stele artist was simpl 
exaggerating the size of the nocks because of the difficulty of working in a basalt 
medium with only copper or stone carving tools. 

While some have interpreted this Pre -Dynastic bow as composite (PAE 67), the 
most decisive argument against a Pre-Dynastic composite bow comes from a Pre- 
Dynastic cylinder seal showing an arms factory (Figure 5b, p. 218; FI §742). In this 
scene, five unstrung bows are shown. They are all essentially straight when unstrung, 
although they show a clear difference in thickness - thicker in the limbs and 
thinner in the handle and nocks. But each shows a pronounced hook-like recur- 
vature at the nock, very similar to the nocks on the drawn bow of the Uruk lion 
hunt stele. The fact that the overall shape of the bow is not recurved in the 
slightest when unstrung implies that the weapon is probably a self bow with some 
type of highly recurved nocks for the bow string. Another crucial piece of evidence 
comes from Uruk, where a stele shows the Priest-king carrying a bow which is 
not drawn and may be unstrung (PAE 68/3). This bow may exhibit some recur 
vature of the limbs and also has the curved nocks. 

In overall structure, this Pre-Dynastic bow appears quite similar to the late Early 
Dynastic bow from Mari, which Yadin believes is a composite bow (Figure 5a, 
p. 218). 34 In the Mari scene the archer seems to be depicted as he begins to draw 
the bow, which certainly appears to be recurved. This creates a problem: if the 
Mari bow is definitely composite, as Yadin argues, one would have to argue thai 
the Pre-Dynastic Mesopotamian bow, which seems to have the same basic shape 
and type of recurvature, should also be composite. This would place the origin oi 
the composite bow in Mesopotamia at around 3400, a thousand years earlier than 
Yadin suggests. It also ignores the fact that in the bowyer scene mentioned above, 
the bow has no recurvature when unstrung (FI §742). If the bow in Pre-Dynastit 
art is not composite, there is no reason to believe the Mari bow is either. 

Archery does not appear frequently in either the art or texts of the Earls 
Dynastic period. This has led Yadin to conclude that "the bow . . . was not: used by 
the Sumerian army" (AW 1:47). There are, however, several examples of its use. 
Two cylinder seal from Early Dynastic Susa show the use of a bow (FI §758, §933; 
ME 110), but these are from Elam. The Early Dynastic archery scene from Mari 
also shows archery, but this is from Syria. None the less, although there were sig- 
nificant cultural differences between Mari and Sumer, there were also many pai 
allels in military equipment; a martial scene from Mari shows the use of the bow 
(AFC §99). In textual evidence, an inscription of king Eanatum of Lagash {2455 
2425} claims that "a person shot an arrow at Eanatum. He was shot through In 
the arrow and had difficulty moving" (PI 34), indicating the use of "archery on tin 
battlefield among the Sumerians. The infantry on the Stele of the Vultures an 
protected by large body-length rectangular shields (I \ s 1 \\1 '■<,<, l )) t whu h 



ikes sense as a defense against missiles (see p. 55). There is thus limited evidence 
i the use of the bow among the Early Dynastic Sumerians. 
Furthermore, although there is no artistic evidence of the bow among the 
imerians in the Neo-Sumerian period {c. 2200-2000}, there is extensive textual 

• \ tdence for their use of the bow at that time. In a twenty-second-century myth 
li god Ninurta uses the bow (TITO 244). Gudea of Lagash {2141-2122} had a 

bow for a chariot he built (R3/ 1:96-7). A twenty-first-century text mentions the 

e of a bow in battle (LD 61), while king Shulgi of Ur {2094-2047} mentions 

m (scripting archers for his army (R3/2:101). Hymns of Shulgi also mention the 

■Qg shooting a bow in battle (TSH 79), while a quiver is among objects dedicated 

(he god Ningirsu (R3/l:34). The importance of archery is further emphasized 

the seal of "Kalbaba, bowmaker ( GI Kban-dim), servant of [king] Ishbi-Erra [of 

n 5 {2017-1985}]" (R4:12), The possession of seals was generally associated with 

elite of Mesopotamian society; Kalbaba was thus an important man, perhaps 

be king's personal bowyer. What we actually have in the sources is evidence for 

1 extensive use of the bow in Pre-Dynastic art, Hmited evidence for the bow in 

ii ly Dynastic sources, and extensive evidence again Akkadian and Neo-Sumerian 

Hires. It is impossible to tell if this reflects a change in the importance and 

U tice of archery, or a change in the nature and survival of our sources. 

In the 2048 the king of Ebla sent Shulgi of Ur tribute (gun) consisting of "500 

■ t//w- weapons of sudianum-wood and 500 containers ( GI§ .kab-kul) of the same 

• ood." 35 This text leads us to the complicated problem of the philology of ancient 

apon names, an issue with many ambiguities leading to possible confusion, 
ichler has argued that the tilpanu is a javelin, 36 while Groneberg has made a strong 
rgument that it should be a bow 37 I believe that the fact that the 500 tilpanu- 

• capons are sent along with 500 "containers" strongly points to the tilpanu being a 
bow, in which case the 500 "containers'' would obviously be quivers. Otherwise, 

4 what use are the 500 "containers" for javelins? At any rate, if the tilpanu here is 
in fact a bow, as seems probable, it is said to have been made out of the same 
utdianum-wood which is used to make the quivers. The most straightforward 
ading of this evidence is that the tilpanu-bow of the twenty-first century is an 
ordinary self bow made from wood, not a composite bow. It is, of course, possible the sudianum-wood is used only for the wooden part of a composite bow, or 
that these bows were self bows, while other weapons were composite bows. Once 
again, the evidence is inconclusive. 

The Akkadian artistic sources provide Yadin with two pieces of evidence that 
ii r crucial to his argument: one shows Naram-Sin holding an undrawn strung 
low, the other shows an Akkadian warrior drawing a bow. Yadin argues that 
" -nun-Sins bow "bears the two characteristic features of the composite weapon; 
it is small - about 90 centimeters from end to end (an estimate based on its rela- 
tionship to the si/e of the figure holding it); and its arms tend to recurve near the 
ends .ind then become straight" (AW 1:47), In actuality there are a number of 
othei ait ist k representations of the use of the bow by Akkadians, which serve to 
inudd\ the interpretative w, iters. The two sources discussed by Yadin need to be 


compared with six others showing an undrawn Akkadian bow, and two others 
with drawn bows. 

We have a number of examples of gods or kings posing in Naram-Sin's "archer 
stance" from his Victory Stele, showing the Akkadian bow strung but not 
drawn. 38 

• Naram-Sin's famous victory stele (4 in the list on p. 86; Figure 3, p. 87) shows 
the conqueror holding a 95-cm bow which recurves and becomes quite 
straight toward the end. Indeed, about a third of each limb appears straight in 
this example. 39 

• Often neglected in the study of the Akkadian composite bow is the parallel, 
but less famous, war monument of Naram-Sin, the rock-cut relief at Dar- 
band-i Gawr (5 on p. 87; Figure 5d, p. 218). 40 This source is important 
because it shows Naram-Sin in precisely the same dramatic stance, holding a 
bow in the same way. However, at Darband-i Gawr, Naram-Sin's bow does 
not appear to be a composite bow. Whereas the tips of Naram-Sin's bow are 
straight and parallel with the string for about one third of the limb on the 
Victory Stele, at Darband-i Gawr the bow is shorter (70 cm to the stele's 95 cm) 
and immediately curves away from the string; it is actually more triangular in 
shape. Now it is, of course, possible that Naram-Sin is depicted using two 
different types of bows, but it is equally possible that the differences between 
the bows of the two monuments are based on artistic style rather than tech- 
nological substance. Assuming Naram-Sin had a powerful and expensive 
composite bow, why would he use an ordinary self bow in battle, or order a 
monumental propaganda depiction of himself with the inferior weapon? 

• Another soldier on the Naram-Sin victory stele also holds a bow (c. 90 cm). 
The bottom part of the image of the bow is damaged, but the top part shows 
that the bow is smaller than Naram-Sin's, and has less recurvature towards the 
tip; in style it seems midway between Naram-sin's bow on the stele and that 
on the Darband-i Gawr relief. 

• A god holds a somewhat longer bow (102 cm) and arrow; the bow shows very 
little recurvature towards the tips (FI §761; AM §113a; SDA §237; AFC §139). 

• A god holds a rather small, undrawn bow (67 cm) which displays moderate 
recurvature towards the tips (FI §849). 

• A cylinder seal shows an Akkadian archer with an undrawn bow (94 cm) and 
a quiver with tassel. 41 Here the fine work of the artist shows a moderate 
recurving of the limbs toward the nocks, but it is less pronounced than in the 
Naram-Sin stele. 

9 In the lower right corner of the right fragment of the Victory Stele of 
Rimush (p. 86) we see the head and top of the bow of an archer (AFC § 1 2* 
AAM §135). This bow, on the same stele as the drawn bow that Yadin saw as 
composite, shows no recurvature and no straightening at the end. The slighi 
outline of the bottom of a bow on the other side of this st< I* in the upper leh 
panel also appears to have no recurvature and no sii.u m the noi I 

• j - 


Also, the ends of two other bows on the Rimush stele show no straightening 
at the nocks. 

in summary, these examples show a range in both size and recurvature: 95 cm, 
"ong recurvature (Naram-Sin stele); 90 cm, moderate recurvature; 67 cm, mod- 
ii te recurvature; 94 cm, moderate recurvature; 102 cm, little recurvature. From 
Ins evidence we note that Naram-Sin's weapon on his victory stele is of average 
length, but is by far the most recurved of all these weapons. Yadin's deduction that 
be Akkadians used the composite bow is thus a generalization from an atypical 


We also have three depictions from the Akkadian period of a drawn bow. 

I Yadin's example comes from Akkadian monumental martial art (Figure 5e 3 
p. 21 9). 42 Yadin believes that the bow's "arms still curve outward slightly" at 
full extension (AW 1:47; AFC §129), but if so, it is quite slight. In my view, the 
shape of this flexed bow is much closer to that of a self bow than the classic 
composite bow (EBD 78-9); it is certainly less recurved than the next example. 

• A god draws a bow which remains quite recurved in form (FI §876). 

• An archer shooting a bow; the image is unclear, but there is not much 
apparent recurvature (FI §685). 

( )f these latter three examples, I would classify one drawn bow as recurved, and 

as not recurved. This leaves the evidence for the Akkadian recurved (and 

nee composite) bow ambiguous. It either means that the Akkadians used both 

lie composite bow and the regular self bow, or that the Akkadian artists were not 

i tly concerned with accurately representing the weapons they saw. None the 

when recurvature on Akkadian bows is seen, it is a distinctive enough feature 

: li .it it seems unlikely that it would have appeared as an arbitrary artistic aberration. 

the composite bow was known to the Akkadians, it was certainly not uni- 

rsally used by Akkadian archers; some, probably most, would have continued to 

■ self bows. 

I litis I would suggest that, while the existence of the composite bow among 

he Akkadians is possible, it is still uncertain. More to the point, however, the 

nlii.iry impact of the Akkadian composite bow, if it existed, is also unclear. The 

more technological capacity to make composite bows would not necessarily 

I inslate into a tactical revolution on the battlefield. What percentage of all 

I I .u 1 1, in troops used the bow? What proportion of these had composite bows (if 

my) instead of self bows? How many bronze (as opposed to copper or flint) 

irrowheads were available? One Neo-Sumerian text mentions that the king him- 

l! shot "flint tipped arrows" (HTO 330). If the king is still using flint arrow-, how widespread could bronze arrowheads be? How many arrows could 

• nil .in her realistically shoot in a battle or siege? There is no hard evidence to 
.invwei ,uiv of these questions. If I he composite bow existed in Akkadian times I 

uuilil Mii'.t'esi ili.n K was .i rare ami expensive weapon used by kings and other 



elites. As discussed elsewhere (p. 255), the expense of making bronze (as opposed 
to copper or flint) arrowheads would probably limit the overall tactical impact of 
the Akkadian composite bow. A few dozen archers in an army of several thousand 
would not be tactically decisive. 

Old Babylonian martial art also has a few representations of the bow, but the 
surviving textual and artistic evidence does not give a great importance to the 
weapon. One scene shows a god holding a bow in the Naram-Sin archer stance; it 
is a short weapon with little or no recurvature (FI §160, §686). A scene from Ebla 
shows an archer hunting with a quiver and what appears to be a short self bow 
(AANE §451; SDA 292). During the Middle Bronze period, the god Ashur gives 
the king of Assyria a bow at his investiture, indicating its continued importance as 
a royal ceremonial weapon (Al:21). King Anubanini of Lullubi (modern Luristan) 
is also depicted in the Naram-Sin pose, trampling a fallen enemy. In one hand he 
holds an axe, and in the other a bow and arrow; the bow itself is not recurved, but 
has slightly recurved tips where the string is attached (PAE 319; ME 20). In the 
Old Babylonian version of the Epic of Gilgamesh, the hero arms himself with dag- 
ger, axe, and "his quiver with the bow from Anshan" in south-west Iran (EG 113). 
In the Beni Hasan murals in Egypt, Canaanite warriors have bows similar to those 
of the Egyptians - though this may be the artistic convention of an Egyptian artist 
who is told to draw a Canaanite with a bow, and draws the Canaanite with an 
Egyptian bow, the only weapon the artist knows (AW 1:166—7). The textual evi- 
dence for the bow from Mari, again indicating its relative unimportance, is dis- 
cussed on pages 254-5. 

If, as Yadin argues, the composite bow existed in Mesopotamia in the twenty- 
fourth century with revolutionary military impact, the following questions 
become difficult to answer. Why does the bow seem to decline in importance in 
later evidence from Mesopotamia and Syria? Assuming the composite bow made 
archery more effective, one would expect its use to increase, not decline, relative 
to the Akkadian period. Why did the composite bow not spread to Canaan and 
Egypt by the Middle Bronze Age, if it had already existed in Mesopotamia for 
several centuries? Most other Syrian military technologies — fortifications, axes, 
chariots - spread quite rapidly to Canaan. Assuming the Beni Hasan murals are 
accurate in showing the Canaanites using Egyptian-style bows, why are the 
Canaanites not using the superior composite bow if the technology had been 
known to their Syrian neighbors for centuries? Why are arrowheads so sparsely 
attested in martial tombs with other weapons burials? Why does archery appear to 
play a relatively minor role in warfare in the Mari archives? Why are charioteers 
not shown using a bow in martial art before the eighteenth century (see Chapter 
Five)? Why do we not see the rapid spread of body armor and shields from the late 
third millennium for protection from the new, more powerful composite bow? 

I would argue that the most probable interpretation of the evidence is that the 
composite bow - or at least an efficient version that could be produced in 
reasonable quantities — developed only in the nineteenth m eighteenth century. 
The dramatic military impact one would expect from \\u- ■!■ ' • lopim m of a new 


weapon like the composite bow, with twice the range and penetrating power of 
■' he self bow (EBD), only begins to be seen in the eighteenth century. We also find 
■rtual evidence for the increasing weight of bronze arrowheads which could have 
fcen shot from the more powerful bows (ARM 18.5; MK 63; see pp. 254-5). 
I taring the seventeenth century we see marked evidence of the use of the bow 
1 i om chariots, and the weapon is introduced into Egypt probably in the seventeenth 
I rntury by the Hyksos (see Chapter Eighteen). Increased use of body armor and 
1 1 1 elds is found in the seventeenth century and throughout the Late Bronze Age, 
>nt is not found in the Akkadian and Old Babylonian periods. If the Akkadians 
Bid have the composite bow, it was either a less efficient version of the weapon, or 
ii was so difficult and expensive to make that only the elites could afford it, and 
therefore its tactical importance before the late Middle Bronze Age was limited, 

Akkadian and Neo-Sumerian military systems 43 

1 )nly a partial understanding of the Akkadian and Neo-Sumerian military systems 

an be obtained from fragmentary bits and pieces of information. Sumerian city- 

Itates apparently organized their population into "clans", each with a different 

name and emblem, who were called up in labor corvees for construction of canals, 

dikes, and temples (R3/1-.78). Presumably, a similar organization existed for 

recruiting levees for warfare, which were treated administratively as a type of labor 

duty to the state. Each band of warriors served within a kinship or socially related 

group. Each Sumerian family owed military service to the state. Shulgi named one 

-i his years "the year the citizens of Ur were conscripted as spearmen". Ele also 

describes his "conscription with the bow and arrow; nobody evaded it - the levy 

being one man per family" (R3/2:l 01). These levees were recruited on an ad hoc basis 

lor a specific war, with soldiers returning to their homes after the campaign (MAS 27). 

As a special privilege, the military and labor conscription required of a city could 

be cancelled. For example, Ishme-Dagan of Isin {1953-1935} "relieved the citizens 

of Nippur from military service ... and made the nation content" (R4:32-4, 89). 

Sargon is sometimes credited with having created the first-known standing 

army in the world. His claim that "5400 men daily eat in the presence of Sargon" 

(R2:29, 31), however, refers not just to soldiers, but to priests, scribes or other 

■ mirt functionaries see (see p. 75). None the less, a substantial number of the 5400 

were probably soldiers. On the other hand, it is very likely that earlier rulers also 

h.ul professional guards. Texts of Amarsin mention the elite gardu, translated as 

"royal body guard" (R3/2:239), who were probably professional troops. A seal 

from the reign of Sumu-El of Lagash mentions an "Iemsium, lieutentant of the 

elite soldiers (ugula" (R4:136), perhaps another professional regiment. 

I here is ,i group know as the aga-ush - "followers of the crown" - who seem to be 

professional full tunc soldiers as opposed to levees (MAS 27). Soldiers are some- 

ni lies desci ibed as receiving land in return for military service. 44 

['lie Akkadians and Neo Smnerians had a sophisticated bureaucracy over all 
aspects ol the si. He, including the military (EM). City governors (en si) seemed to 


have had responsibility for military recruitment and supplies in their jurisdiction 
(MAS 26-7). Within the homeland, cities were expected to provide supplies and 
accommodation for armies passing through their province. Numerous Sumerian 
and Akkadian economic texts describe the requisitioning of food and equipment 
for government use, although it is not clear if this is for labor gangs or soldiers 
(MAS 26). From the Mesopotamian perspective, there was probably no distinction. 
Surviving archives describing the disbursement of supplies and equipment to 
soldiers demonstrate that, at least by the Akkadian period, Mesopotamians had 
developed a well organized commissary system which kept detailed records of the 
collection and distribution of supplies. 45 The archive recorded "the number of 
workers [or soldiers] and how long they worked on the one hand, and the numhei 
of times they had been fed on the other" (USP 25). They dealt with the collec- 
tion, storage and distribution of grain, foodstuffs, personnel, livestock (including 
donkeys), textiles, and equipment, including weapons (USP 38). A typical record 

580 shu-loaves [of bread,] 29 jars of 30/30 beer did the chief of the work 
troops receive. 20 loaves, 1 pot of 30/30 beer to the soldier of Adda. Tin 
bread and beer are a disbursement. Year 5, month 5, day 27. 

This extensive and complex bureaucracy facilitated the creation of the Akkadian 
army and the management of the lands conquered by the armies. 

The capture of booty was a major purpose of war. Several "booty tablets" 
(namrak) have survived from the Neo-Sumerian period, giving lists of booty taken 
on a campaign and its disbursement (R3/2:236). A portion of the booty w;is 
generally donated to the temples of the gods, for practical use by the priests. One 
text mentions, for example, the "booty dedicated to the god Shara [taken as 
plunder] from the city of Sharithum" (R3/2:238). Since the gods were the most 
important allies of the king, and granted him victory, they deserved their share of 
the plunder just as any other allied king would, even though this portion of the 
plunder was not of immediate practical military use. Part of the booty was directly 
distributed to soldiers, both for food while on campaign, and as rewards after battle 
(R3/2:108, 110). Great victory feasts were held for the "heroes" of the campaign, 
in which captured animals were roasted (R3/2:109, 239). Finally, a portion of the 
booty went to the king, some of which would eventually be recycled to fund thr 
army. The logistical and economic costs of maintaining this standing army may 
have caused Sargon to create the world's first predatory army — a force which is too 
large to be maintained by the economic resources of the kingdom, and must per 
force campaign every year to provide plunder for its own upkeep (war must fee< I 
war). A number of the texts focus on the plunder and captives taken from con 
quered regions, indicating these important economic aspects of Akkadian warfan 
(R2:23-4, 31, 60-7)., 

The commander-in-chief of the Akkadian and Sumerian arniv was the king 
who regularly campaigned in person. I [owever, the kmr ■>■ i i ■ ■ d h\ ,i numhei 



lifferent types of military officers, although the specifics about their differences 
i unctions are sometimes obscure. The Sumerian epic Gilgamesh and Agga has 
non where Gilgamesh lists five military offices in order of ascending rank 

NG 148): 

\gula lieutenant (overseer) 

sbanda captain 

/ governor (or perhaps colonel in a military sense) 

hagina general 

.K.una erin "general of the army", or perhaps field marshal 

Wxagina (Sumerian gir.nita, roughly "general") was probably the highest mili- 
oliice, and occurs repeatedly in inscriptions (R3/2:349, 353). Successful 
i. (Is were honored in royal inscriptions (R2:32). Generals also appear as mili- 
■ overnors of conquered cities; for Mari we have a list of seven generals who 
med the city for the Akkadians (R2:231-7; R3/2:143), with several others 
1 1 nng Elam (R2:302-8). Under Naram-Sin a warrior named Lugal-uru-si was 
ii' ial of the land of Sumer and Akkad" (R2:103), the supreme army com- 
mit t under the king, and perhaps the same as the shagina erin. As in many 
lent societies, generals often held many additional government and religious 
ices - Caesar, for example, served as a priest as Pontifex Maximus. Under king 
in, Irnanna served simultaneously as governor, a sanga priest of the god Enki, 
the gir.nita of several different provinces (R3/2:323-4). In addition to his 
i v duties, general Babati served as royal steward, accountant, canal inspector, 
i anga priest (R3/2:341— 2). Likewise, city governors (ensi) are often described 
ni u ipating in campaigns, and seem to have ranked immediately under the 
I ral. 

I In- second most frequently mentioned military office is nubanda, roughly 

[llivalent to captain (R2:93; R3/2:239). They were clearly of lower rank and 

it numerous than the generals. We can get a sense of the relative status, rank, 

i numbers of Akkadian period officers by some of Naram-Sin 's prisoner lists. 

i l.i i ins during one of his extended campaigns to have captured six shagina 

\\ nerals), seventeen ensi (city governors), 78 rabi'anu (nomad "chiefs"), and 2000 

mia (captains) (R2:92-3). At the battle of Tiwa, Naram-Sin captured the 

' niia (general) of Kish, along with four of his nubanda (captains) (R2:105— 6). 

/ las were often assigned specific types of duties; under Shusin we hear of 

I ug.ilmagure, captain of the watch" (nubanda ennuga) serving as governor of Ur 

i ! 126, 418). 

I he Akkadian army was also organized into military units, though these seem 

i have been rather flexible in size. The basic term for a military unit was kiseri, or 

i'liiM-ni; Sargon is said to have mustered nine kiseri against Uruk (R2:16). Several 

onls ties* n'ne companies of roughly 200 men commanded by a nubanda (MAS 

U nl 1) I he nature of the Akkadian army allowed it to campaign at 

ul perils, .i N, ii. nil Sm insuiption describes .i forced march in which the 




Akkadian army moved at over twice the normal rate of march for several days 
running (R2:125). Soldiers on campaign are described as eating "bread [baked] on 
coals" and "drinking water from skins" (LKA 179), Some type of camp fortifica 
tions on campaign seem to be implied when Naram-Sin "made firm the founda 
tions of the army camps" (R2:141). 

Manishtushu (R2.75-6), Naram-Sin (R2:97, 117) and Shar-kalli-shan 
(R2:192) all claim to have undertaken maritime expeditions in the Persian Gulf. 
Conquest of the coast of the Persian Gulf allowed Akkadians to control much of 
the maritime trade of the region, with merchants arriving in Akkad from Meluhha 
(the Indus valley), Magan (Oman), and Dilmun (Bahrain) (R2:28— 30). The cap- 
tain of a boat is also called a nubanda (R3/l:41), like his land-based counterparts. 
The "chief sea-captain", or admiral, is called nam-garash (R3/247— 8); this 
inscription has specific reference to trading activities, but presumably this office i 
would be involved in any naval military affairs as well. 

Weapons in the Akkadian and Sumerian arsenals included lance, spear, javelin, 
narrow-headed axe, broad battle-axe (or scimitar- axe), mace, dagger, and bow. 
Weapons were kept in a special arsenal, sometimes inside a temple complex, which 
were protected by images of divine beings. King Gudea {2141—2122} gave a 
description of one of these arsenals: "in the inner [arsenal] where the weapons 
hang, [at] its Battle Gate, [Gudea] posted the warriors 'deer-of-six-heads' and 
'Mount Sinjar' " (R3/l:85) - the latter apparently being images of mythical war- 
rior demons slain by Ningirsu. 46 

A ritual blessing given by lmdugud, a mythical dragon-like creature, to the epic- 
hero Lugalbanda, describes the arms of a Sumerian king: 

May your flint- tipped arrow 7 hit its man . . . 

May it; be sharp like the point of an axe . . . 

May [the god] Ninurta, Enlil's son, 

Cover your crown with the helmet, "Lion of Battle" . . . 

When you have wielded the net in the mountain, 

May the net not let loose [your enemies]. (HTO 330-1) 

The throwing net mentioned here was used to entangle enemies (HTO 236), 
perhaps as depicted on the Stele of the Vultures (AM §66-9, see Figure 1, p. 55). 
A description of a ritual inspection tour by Gudea of Lagash included a catalog 
of some of the weapons at the temple arsenal at Lagash: 

Gudea brings to [the god] Ningirsu . . . [the officer] Sbul-shaga . . . holding 
the seven-spiked mace, and opening the Ankar, the Battle-Gate [to tin- 
arsenal], that the 

dagger blades [eme-gir] 

the mitu ["dead-man"] mace, 

the "floodstorm" weapon 


Hie "bitter one" [khurratum] 
.ind all the weapons of war; 

Bight all exactly hit their targets, that he might flood all the lands of [the god] 
I n Ills enemies. Gudea brings along with himself [for the inspection] to [the 




pie of] Ningirsu the mighty weapon "Slaughterer of a Myriad", which 
nines all lands in battle, [and] the officer of [the temple] Eninnu, hawk of 
lie rebel land, [and] his general Lugalkurdub. 47 

text apparently refers to a special blessing for weapons before battle. Weapons 

often viewed as magical objects, as gifts from the gods imbued with divine 

- which was the real source of victory (R2:133). Many of these special cer- 

nial weapons were made of very precious and rare materials and given evo- 

names such as "Mace-unbearable-for-the-regions", "Three-headed-lion- 

", and "slaughterer-of~a-myriad" (R3/l:34). Sargon claimed that "the god 

tba, mighty one of the gods - the god Enlil gave to [me] his weapons". Sargon 

ribes his victory over LJruk to the power of the "mace of the god Ilaba": per- 

•omething similar to a mace he dedicated to the gods as a victory trophy 

2: 13, 1 7-18). Bur-Sin of Isin donated a "three-headed gold mace with heads of 

in lazuli as a great emblem for Ninurta" (IYN 30). Sargon's grandson Naram- 

• hided this same mace (or another of the same name) in battle (R2:94). At his 

onadon Naram-Sin was given "a weapon of heaven from the temple of the god 

P (R2:85), as well as divine weapons of the gods Dagan and Nergal (R2:133), 

■1 Ishtar (LKA 195, 199); Shu-sin received the a'ankara weapon from Ninlil (E3/ 

K>2, 307; cf. R4:391). The shihirru weapon - sometimes called a "scimitar" - 

apparently a special weapon of kingship (LKA 199-200). What distinguished a 

ivine weapon from an ordinary one is unclear. They may have been ancestral 

capons preserved in the temples, or weapons that were manufactured with a 

c< ial ritual and consecration by the priests. Meteoric iron was worked by the 

idians (R2:68); such a mace could perhaps have been described as coming 

from heaven". These weapons of the gods are said to have the power to make the 

iicmy panic in battle (R3/l:93). 

Akkadian martial ideology 

i id Enlil, whose major temple was E-kur ("mountain house") at Nippur, was 

particular focus of Akkadian martial devotion. Sargon became ruler by the 

• idirf of Enlil, and ruled as his "governor" (R2:10, 13, 19, 34, 133). Enlil 

died Manishtusu "by name", granting him the "scepter of kingship" (R2:77). 

nlil granted Sargon "surpassing intelligence", thereby insuring that Sargon had 

no rival" in the world (R2:34, 11, 14, 20, 29, 31, 45). 

I Ik- kings ruled as they were "instructed" by the gods, presumably through 

•i.ules and divination. Divination often preceded battle. Enlil's instructions 

liuiol tin- command to "show merry to no one", which the Akkadian rulers 



followed religiously (R2:32, 34, 56, 192-3): "Naram-Sin, the mighty, by the 
authority of the god Enlil, showed mercy to no one in those battles" (R2:138). 
The gods also "go before" or "open the way" for the king in battle, granting 
victory (R2:50, 133; LKA 181). 

The link between Akkadian kings and the gods was strengthened and empha- 
sized under Naram-sin, who was no longer merely the representative of the gods, 
but the "spouse of the goddess Ishtar-Annumitum" (R2:88). When he defeated a 
rebellion of "the four quarters" (i.e. the entire world), thereby saving the city of 
Akkad from destruction, Naram-Sin was proclaimed a god, and a temple was 
dedicated to him (R2:l 13—14). Thereafter, his name was always written with a 
divine determinative - a linguistic marker indicating the name of a god. His son 
Shar- -kalli-shari also claimed divinity in one of his inscriptions (R2:206). 

Shar-kalli-shari {2217-2192}, and the decline 
of the Akkadians 48 

Naram-Sin's son and successor, Shar-kalli-shari ("king of all kings") was the last of 
the great Akkadian rulers, but was unable to retain power over the vast empire his 
father had controlled by brutal repression. As with all Akkadian kings, the exact 
chronology of his reign is uncertain. He is noted as a great temple builder, who 
undertook resource gathering expeditions to Syria and Lebanon (R2: 185-91, 
193); he may have been more interested in religious and cultural pursuits than in 
warfare. Be that as it may, at some point during his reign a major rebellion broke 
out, which is described in terms similar to those used by Naram-Sin: 

When the four quarters together revolted against him [Shar-kalli-shari], from 
beyond the Lower Sea as far as the Upper Sea, he smote the people and all the 
Mountain Lands for the god Enlil and brought their kings in fetters before the 
god Enlil. Shar-kalli-shari, the mighty, by the authority of the god Enlil, 
showed mercy to no one in those battles. (R2: 192-3) 

Although he claims to have suppressed this rebellion, it is clear that his victory 
was tenuous. Whereas his ancestors consistently called themselves "king of the 
four quarters [of the world]", Shar-kalli-shari is satisfied with "King of Agade", as 
were his feeble successors. 

Shar-kalli-shari's inscriptions are far fewer and less instructive than those oi 
Sargon and Naram-Sin, but a basic picture begins to emerge of an empire in crisis. 
In his "year names" he mentions three campaigns, claiming victories in all. The 
Amorites were defeated in their mountain stronghold at Bashar (R2:183), when- 
Naram-Sin had fought them earlier. Shar-kalli-shari claims to have defeated the 
Elamites at the battle of Akshak, near modern Baghdad (R2:183; PAE 108). Sig 
nificantly, rather than campaigning into the heart of Elani, Shar k.illi shari fought 
the Elamites as they were invading the Tigris valley Finally, the < iuti.m highlantler 



mi the Zagros mountains under their ruler Sharlak were defeated (R2:183), but 
I destroyed. In a few years Sharlak reappears as Sharlagab (KS 330), a Gutian 
I lord ruling in Mesopotamia (see pp. 102-4). 

I hus Shar-kalli-shari's inscriptions reveal the empire surrounded by powerful 
I militant enemies: the Amorites to the north-west; the Gutians to the east, and 

Elamites to the south-east. These problems were further complicated by the 

rnal revolt of recalcitrant city-states. Although royal defeats are never men- 
■ii'd in the Akkadian annals, they were obviously occurring with increasing 
quency, and would culminate with the collapse of the Akkadian state shortly 

i Shar-kalli-shari's death. The Gutian invasion and collapse of Akkad will be 

iissed in the next chapter. 



The Neo-Sumerian period {2190-2004} 

The Neo-Sumerian period is characterized by the cultural and political revival of* 
Sumerian peoples after a century-and-a-half of domination by Semitic Akkadians. 
The collapse of the Akkadian empire was in part caused by, and at the same time 
facilitated, the migration of highlander warlords known as Gutians into Mesopo 
tamia. For over half a century these foreign warlords dominated local peoples, bin 
were never accepted by them as legitimate leaders. Sumerian kings first achieved 
local independence, and then ousted the foreign warlords, creating the culturally 
dynamic Third Dynasty of Ur. The Neo-Sumerian age lasted less than a century 
and-a-half, however, ending with a second wave of outsiders invading Mesopota 
mia. This time, Semitic Amorite warlords from Syria were successful in integratiiii-. 
themselves into Mesopotamia!! civilization, creating a new political and militan 
order that transitioned into the Middle Bronze Age. 1 

Gutian warlords {c. 2190-2115} 2 

At the death of Shar-kalli-shari the military crisis of Akkad was exacerbated by an 
apparent civil war in which four kings ruled in only three years {2192-2190 j 
There are vague allusions in the inscriptions to inter-city warfare during this per 
iod (R2:209-18), which the Sumerian King-list succinctly summarizes: "Who was 
king? Who was not king? Igigi, the king; Nanum, the king; Imi, the king; Elulu, 
the king - the four of them were kings but reigned only three years." (KS 330) 
Although Dudu {2189-2169} finally emerged as ruler of Akkad, by that time his 
domain had been reduced to one city-state among many in central Mesopotamia 
During this period of chaotic anarchy, Gutian highlanders emerge as a majoi 
military power in Mesopotamia. Earlier vague allusions to Gutians appear in Akkadian 
texts, where they are described as highlanders of the Zagros Mountains to the easi 
of Akkad (ME 24-7), but their first major reference is to the defeat of the Gutian 
king Sharlak by Shar-kalli-shari, mentioned on pp. 100-1 (R2:183). Thereafter, 
Gutian warbands appear in Mesopotamia, first as devastating raiders, 3 and even 
tually as conquerors. The specific pattern of Gutian conquest is unclear. From tin 
military perspective, the fall of Akkad was characterized by h<»tli internal revolt 
and outside invasion. The city-states of Sinner, I'l.un. and muilnm Mesopotamia 

In ' 


became independent, while outsiders simultaneously invaded Mesopotamia. 

i >iin tain highlanders from many surrounding regions seem to have participated 

migration, including the Hurrians (from the northern mountains), Lullubi 

i ibors of the Gutians in the Zagros mountains), Elarnites from the south of Zagros, 

norites from the Jebel Bishri region of Syria, and perhaps the obscure Umman- 

inda. 4 Archaeological data confirms the devastation of a number of cities in 

hern Mesopotamia during this period (RA3:71 0). Later epic literature describes, 

< onsiderable hyperbole, the panic and devastation of these invasions. 5 The 

idian armies are defeated, the land devastated, cities are destroyed, and the rites 

i gods blasphemed (LKA 271-7); all of Mesopotamia is overrun (LKA 315). 

I he most important invaders were the Gutians, described as fierce and lawless 

irians from the mountains. Some of the Gutian warlords managed to establish 

Ives as kings over some of the city-states of Mesopotamia. The Sumerian 

■ list mentions twenty-one Gutian rulers reigning for a period of about 90 

I with each king ruling for only a few years (KS 330); an alternative possibility 

H many of these Gutian kings were contemporaries. They should not be seen, 

vever, as forming a coherent dynasty ruling all of Mesopotamia. It is more 

i hey were loosely allied warlords who ruled as a foreign military aristocracy 

i number of city-states. Perhaps it is best to view them as broadly similar to 

(lei manic kingdoms following the fall of Rome. 

1 he Sumerians viewed this period as one of chaos and devastation: 

I lie Gutians [are] the fanged serpent of the mountain, who acted with violence 
against the gods, who carried off the kingship of the land of Sumer to the 
i Mountain land, who filled the land of Sumer with wickedness, who took 
away the wife from the one who had a wife, who took away the child from the 
one who had a child, who put wickedness and evil in the land of Sumer. (R2:284) 

1 Hilary sources for this period range from vague to non-existent. Only the 
igns of the Gutian king Erridu-pizir have substantial documentation. An 
i i iption describing the revolt of one of his rebellious vassals, the king of Madga, 
rhaps reflective of the anarchy of the age: 

1 i i idu-pizir, the mighty, king of Gutiurn and the four quarters, hastened [to 
confront] him [the rebellious king of Madga]. [Since the Gutian ruler of 
Madga | feared [Erridu-pizar] he retreated [into his own original] mountain 
| homeland], and [Erridu-pizir] hunted him down, captured him, led him 
away [captive, and executed] him. Erridu-pizir, the mighty, king of Gutium 
niil the four quarters took [him] away by force through the gate of the god of 
« .in mm, struck him, and killed him, the king [of Madga]. (R2:221— 2) 

v we see a ( mtian warlord ruling a city in Mesopotamia as the vassal of another 
man When a conflict arises between the two, the vassal flees back to his origi- 
iiiani homeland, hoping vainly to escape the wrath of his lord. 



Erridu-pizir's greatest victory was a campaign against the rival highlander Lul 
lubi tribe in the Zagros. Erridu-pizir provides an itinerary for his campaign into 
the mountains, forcing mountain passes and capturing the enemy commanders an J 
mountain strongholds: 

KA-Nisba, king of Simurrum, instigated the people of Simurrum and Lullubi 
[highlanders] to revolt. Amnili, general of [the enemy Lullubi] . . . made the 
land [rebel] . . . Erridu-pizir, the mighty, king of Gutium and of the fom 
quarters hastened [to confront] him. He proceeded [through] the peaks ot 
Mount Nisba. In six days he conquered the pass at Mount Hamemepir . 
entered its pass. Erridu-pizir, the mighty, pursued him [Amnili] and con 
quered the pass at Mount Nuhpir. Further, he struck down Amnili, the 
[Lullubi] ... on its summit ... In a single day he . . . conquered the pass ot 
Urbillum at Mount Mumum. Further, he captured Nirishuha. (R2:226-7) 

Gutian domination in Mesopotamian was not universal. Many Sumerian citiei 
like Ur, Uruk, Umma, Lagash, and Mari, achieved some degree of independence 
during this period. Their few inscriptions, however, provide little concrete mill 
tary information. From these independent Sumerian city-states arose a nationalis 
tic anti-Gutian movement aimed at ousting the hated invaders. The mow 
successful leader of this movement was Utuhegal of Uruk {2117-2111}, who is 
credited with driving out the Gutians and inaugurating the Neo-Sumerian period 
(see pp. 105-7). 

Gudea, Second Dynasty of Lagash {2155-2122} 6 

While the Gutians dominated much of Sumer, the city of Lagash remained inde- 
pendent under the kings of its Second Dynasty. Although this period is renowned 
as a cultural golden age under king Gudea {2141-2122}, the Second Dynasty ol 
Lagash has not produced many military inscriptions, leaving our understanding < .1 
warfare during this period rather vague. The corpus of inscriptions from Laga ' 
focuses instead on temple building and other ritual activities. When compared to 
his lovingly detailed description of temple building, Gudea's most importai: 
campaign is laconically described: "Gudea defeated the cities of Anshan and Elam 
and brought the booty there from to Ningirsu in his Eninnu [temple]" (R3/1 :> 
Indeed, the allusion to the campaign only occurs in the context of describing tl 
materials gathered to build his beloved temples. 

From the inscriptions of Lagash, it would seem that there was relative pen 
during the reign of Gudea. Gudea praises the god Ningirsu, who "opened for hii 
all the roads leading from the Upper to the Lower Sea" (R3/L33), which pn 
sumably meant for trade rather than for warfare. His inscriptions describe bringir 
building materials, precious metals and jewels from Feb. num. Finn, the IVrsi 
Gulf, Magan (Oman), and the Meluhha (Indus valley) (R3/ 1:33-4, 7K). None ol 
Gudea's numerous splendid statues depicts llie kine. m .ur martial context (SI > • 


202-17). This is generally true of the next several centuries of Mesopotamian art; 

whatever reason, martial themes are seldom depicted (SDA 1 96-25 1); 7 martial 

i essentially disappears during the Neo-Sumerian period. 

I 'nlike the first dynasty, described in Chapter Two, the second dynasty of 

ish was not an expansionist state, but apparently had a sufficiently strong mili- 

I o insure its own survival. Several of the year-names are associated with the 

nstruction of ritual divine weapons for dedications at temples. These include 

he year the wooden [shaft] of the [divine weapon of Ningirsu] 'Mow-down-a- 

i Lad' was made"; "[the war-god] Ningirsu's mace with fifty heads was fash- 

>ned" (R3/l:27, 33, 75). But even these are, strictly speaking, ritual rather than 

I nary activities. It remained for the warlike king Utuhegal of Uruk finally to 

e the hated Gutians from Sumer. 

Puzur-Inshushinak (Kutik-Inshushinak) and the Elamites 
{c. 2120-1990} 8 

Fhe collapse of Akkadian power allowed local nobles in Elam to gain indepen- 

iii e for the first time in a century, recreating their Elamite kingdom based at 

it. Puzur-Inshushinak, who began as an Akkadian vassal viceroy in Elam, 

n I u ally asserted his independence, taking the title "mighty king of Awan 

ii n |" by the end of his reign. His main martial inscription describes his rise to 

er in Elam, capturing two rival kings "Kimash and Hurtum" and "crushing 

lider his feet in one day 81 towns and regions". The king of Shimashki, a land 

i of Elam, "grabbed his feet", begging for mercy, and was allowed to live as a 

1 1 of Puzur-Inshushinak (PAE 123). Claiming imperial titles from the 

imbling Akkadians, Puzur-Inshushinak proclaimed that "[the god] Inshush- 

ik looked graciously upon him and gave him the four quarters of the earth" 

! ) :653). 

I'ledominant in Elam, Puzur-Inshushinak turned his attention to Mesopotamia. 

t from Ur from the reign of Urnammu lists several regions of central 

x)tamia as being under the rule of Puzur-Inshushinak, including Eshnunna 

I Akkad itself. This brought Puzur-Inshushinak into conflict with the rising 

K>wer of Urnammu of Ur (see pp. 108-9). Urnammu claims he "liberated 

1 Ink, Marad, Girkal, Kazallu, and their settlements, and for Usarum, whatever 

intones] were under the subjugation of [Puzur-Inshushinak] of Anshan" 

S 2:409a; PAE 124-5). Elamite incursions into Mesopotamia were thus 

mporarily forestalled, but a century later they would return to sack Ur itself (see 

I Mi). 


Utuhegal of Uruk {2117-2111}" 

i !i overthrow of the Gutian warlords occurred in the reign of Utuhegal, king of 

il Seizing the opportunity afforded by the uncertainty surrounding the 

>•-» rnsmu of .i uc\y Gutian monarch named Tirigan, Utuhegal rebelled against his 




Gutian overlord. He left a vivid inscription of his victory over the Gutians which 
contains one of the most detailed military narratives of the third millennium, 
illustrating one of the fundamental principles of ancient Near Eastern warfare: that 
the decisions of the gods, even if inscrutable, control the course of history. 

The god Enlil, lord of the foreign lands, commissioned Utuhegal, the mighty 
man, king of Uruk, king of the four quarters, the king whose utterance can- 
not be countermanded, to destroy [the Gutian] name. Thereupon Utuhegal 
went to the [war] goddess Inanna, his lady, and prayed to her, saying: "My 
lady, lioness of battle, who butts the foreign lands, the god Enlil has commis- 
sioned me to bring back the kingship of the land of Sumer. May you be 
my ally." 

The enemy [Gutian] hordes had trampled everything. Tirigan, the king of 
Gutium, had [seized kingship in Sumer] . . . but no [Sumerian lord] set out 
against him [in battle] . He had seized both banks of the Tigris River. In the 
south, in Sumer, he had blocked water from the fields. In the north, he had 
closed off the roads and caused tall grass to grow up along the roads of the 

The foundation of Utuhegal's success was that the god Enlil chose him to "destroy 
[the Gutian] name". What this meant in practical terms is uncertain, but it likely 
has reference to oracles presented by the prophets of Uruk calling upon Utuhegal 
to overthrow the Gutians. Utuhegal, however, does not act alone. 

Utuhegal, the mighty man, went forth from Uruk and set up [a wai 
banner?] ... in the temple of the god Ishkur [in Uruk]. He called out to the 
citizens of his city [Uruk], saying: "The god Enlil has given Gutium to me. 
My lady, the goddess Inanna, is my ally" . . . Utuhegal made the citizens ol 
Uruk and Kullab [a suburb of Uruk] happy. His city followed him [in the 
decision to go to war] as if they were just one person. 

Having received oracles of victory from the gods Enlil and Inanna, 
summons a city council at the plaza before the temple of Ishkur. He announces the 
oracles and he rallies the citizens of Uruk to support his rebellion against the 
Gutians. This incident emphasizes that Sumerian kings had to rely on the suppori 
of their citizens for war, and that oracles could sway public opinion in these mat- 
ters one way or another. With the support of the city, Utuhegal launches his 

Utuhegal arranged in correct array his select elite troops. After Utuhegal 
departed from the temple of the god Ishkur [in Uruk], on the fourth day In- 
set up [camp] in the city of Nagsu on the Iturungal canal. On the fifth day h< 
set up [camp] in the shrine Ilitappe. He captured Ur Nin.i/n and Nahi Enlil 
generals whom [Tirigan, king of the Gutians | had smi i to the land < 

Sumer, and put handcuffs on them. After he departed from the shrine Ili- 
tappe, on the sixth day he set up [camp] at Karkar. He proceeded to the god 
Ishkur and prayed to him, saying: "O god Ishkur! The god Enlil has given me 
his weapon. May you be my ally" 

Fhe reference to "select elite troops" is important, demonstrating a ranking of the 
I- i.i 1 1 ty and value of soldiers. Utuhegal's itinerary is our most detailed description 
i Sumerian army on the march. He emphasizes his daily piety, repeatedly caUing 
■ the gods for assistance, attempting to act in accordance with the will of the gods 
P battle. A rough estimate of a days march for a Sumerian army can be deter- 
mined from Utuhegal's itinerary. The next passage notes that battle took place 
i |>M ream from Adab" some fifty miles north of Uruk, which was reached after a 
day march, thus averaging about eight to nine miles a day. Utuhegal then 
i ibes the day of battle. 

In the middle of that night [Utuhegal] got up, and at daybreak proceeded to a 
point upstream from Adab. ... In that place, against the Gutians, he laid a trap 
and led his troops against them. Utuhegal, the mighty man, defeated their 
generals. Then Tirigan, king of Gutium, fled alone on foot to Dabrum.. 
Since the citizens of Dabrum realized that Utuhegal was the king to whom 
the god Enlil had granted power, they did not let Tirigan go. The envoys of 
Utuhegal captured Tirigan along with his wife and children at Dabrum. They 
put handcuffs and a blindfold on him. Utuhegal made him lie at the feet of 
the god Utu and placed his foot on his neck. [Thus Utuhegal] removed [the 
( lutians and] . . . brought back the kingship of the land of Sumer. (R2:284-7) 

mIk gal's use of a stratagem to trick the Gutian should remind us that, although 

ing on the will of the gods for victory, the Sumer ians none the less also fought 

i in the real world of weapons, supplies, and tactics. Even if Enlil had promised 

• tory, Utuhegal still used a stratagem. This auspicious victory over Tirigan was 

m. inhered m later years in books of divination (Cl/2:462). The mention that 

irigan "fled [the battle] alone on foot" undoubtedly has reference to the standard 

oi War-carts in battle at this time. 

tuhegals victory, although decisive, was apparently not complete. Most of 
OJthern Mesopotamia rallied to his support, but the full extent of his domain is 
»t certain. He did not, however, found a stable dynasty. After a reign of only 
Vtn years he died, according to legend, by accidental drowning while inspecting 
dike. Real political power in Sumer passed into the hands of Urnammu, the 
nine governor of Ur, founder of the glorious Third Dynasty of Ur. 

The Third Dynasty of Ur {2112-2004} 


lh',,1 Dynasty of Ur (or Ur III) witnessed the last flowering of Sumerian 
u|[uljl •" Inevement; indeed, most of the literature, art, and architecture generally 

I IK, 




associated with Sumer was produced during Ur III. Militarily, this was also a pci 
iod of Sumerian ascendancy in Mesopotamia, in which the kings of Ur were the 
dominant military force in the region. 

Urnammu {2112-209 5} 11 

Although best known for his cultural achievements in law, literature, and art, an 
for the building of the magnificent ziggurat of Ur, Urnammu also played i 
important military role as well. Unfortunately, his surviving inscriptions focus m 
his building projects, leaving us with fragmentary information about his milit.n 
activities. Furthermore, as is often the case in early Mesopotamian military histoi \ 
a precise chronology of Urnammu s campaigns cannot be established from 1 1 1 
fragmentary evidence. 

Under Utuhegal of Uruk, Urnammu had served as governor of Ur; somi 
scholars suspect that he was the son-in-law of Utuhegal (R3/2:9). While governoi 
of Ur for Utuhegal, Urnammu engaged in a border dispute with Lagash, defeatin 
them and annexing a portion of their land with the acquiescence of Utuhcg. 
(R3/2:10). Upon the death of his suzerain Utuhegal, Urnammu declared hinisc 
an independent king {2112}, initially ruling only the city-state of Ur and its sui 
rounding land; the fortifications of Ur were significantly strengthened early in in 
reign (R3/2:ll, 19, 25-6). Later the fortifications of Nippur were also refurbishes 

The anarchy of the Gutian period left brigands and pirates infesting bol 
Mesopotamia and the Persian Gulf Part of Urnammu s achievement was to "pu 
the road in order from the south to the north" (R3/2:14) and to resume tradi 
with Magan (Oman) in the Persian Gulf (R3/2:41, 47). This restoration ol 
order and trade in Mesopotamia laid the foundation for the economic and oil 
tural renaissance of the Neo-Sumerian period. One of Urnammu 's claims was I 
have cleared out the brigands and to have made river and land travel secun 
(CS 2:409). As part of this process he mentions the "sea-captains" who "has 
control of the foreign maritime trade" in the Persian Gulf; Urnammu "establish- d 
freedom" for the Sumerian maritime traders (CS 2:409a). These "sea-captains" 
can be interpreted in one of two ways. It could simply refer to non-Sumeri.m 
merchants who had taken control of ocean trade during the Gutian anarchy. C h 
the other hand, they may be Persian Gulf pirates who were pillaging Sumerian 
merchants, in which case Urnammu is describing the first anti-pirate nava 
campaign in history. He also mentions the return of a "Magan-boat" at Ui 
probably a reference to a boat capable of sailing the Persian Gulf to Magan-Omai 
(CS 2:409a). 

Urnammu undertook a number of campaigns which resulted in the hegemon 
of Ur in Sumeria. His armies conquered Lagash in battle, absorbing the city inn- 
his domain, although leaving it to be governed by local at istoi rats (R 3/2:47). 1 I< 
also defeated his former masters at Urnk (R3/2: NO I vmiuallv Ik- "banished 
malediction, violence and strife" which is to say he defeat- J Ins rivals and 


hi igands. Ur's predominance in Mesopotamia was ritually recognized in a 
ii festival at Nippur, culminating in his declaration as "king of the lands 
and Akkad" who "restored the ancient state of affairs", which is to say, 
red Sumerian rule in a unified Mesopotamia. 12 

i 'h Urnammu's direct military power was limited to central and southern 

I ii nia, he formulated an alliance with Mari to the north-west in Syria to 

the growing power of the Amorite nomads in the Syrian steppe, who 

iip-lv threatened Mesopotamia throughout Ur III. 13 This alliance was sealed 

marriage of Urnammu's son with Taram-Uram, the daughter Apil-Kin, 

■ Mari (R3/2/.86). 

une point in his reign Urnammu began to campaign to the east outside of 

i imia. As noted above, the Elamite kingdom under Puzur-Inshushinak 

M advantage of the power vacuum in Mesopotamia following the collapse 

hi power in Mesopotamia to sieze several Sumerian city-states (R3/2:48). 

inn campaigned into "highland Elam", defeated the coalition of the 

king, and liberated the Sumerian city-states (R3/2: 19-20, 65-6; PAE 

n are fragmentary inscriptions describing campaigns by Urnammu against 

hi ins as well. Although driven from dominance in Mesopotamia by the 

ii of Utuhegal, the Gutians had not been decisively crushed, and still 

nted a serious potential threat to Mesopotamia. Gutarla, king of the 

Still had garrisons in parts of Mesopotamia, from which he conducted 

\ (R3/2:67). Urnammu campaigned victoriously against the Gutians "in their 

in binding "the bloody hands of the Gutian" prisoners (R3/2:ll, 21). 

this victory did not fully break the Gutians, however, for, according to 

1 1 ms funerary lament, he died in battle against them in 2095, when his 

roke and fled, leaving him stranded on the battlefield: "in the place of 

'lit a they [the army of Ur] abandoned [their king] Urnammu [in battle] like a 


This is one of the rare examples of Mesopotamian royal 

1 1 pi sot is describing the defeat and death of a king in battle. 

Shulgi {2094-2047} 


■it!\ after the death of his father Urnammu in battle, Shulgi carried out a 

iilive campaign against the Gutians to avenge his death (R3/2:20). Thereafter, 

tin most part, the early years of Shulgi 's reign are generally associated in his 

i names with peaceful religious and building activities. There were, however, 

military undertakings; in his seventh year {2088}, the highlander "Su peo- 

n hI the lands of Zabshali [northwest Iran], from the border of Anshan to the 

Sea, rose like locusts" and invaded Mesopotamia. Shulgi undertook a 

ntive expedition against them (DZ 138-9). 

n the second half of his reign {2076-2047}, however, war becomes increas- 
\ loinmon, with about hall the year names associated with campaigning. In 
last p. lit nl Ins u-igii Shulgi undertook a generally expansionist policy, leading 

So' j 



to conquests throughout Sumer and hegemony abroad, which was continued by 
his son Amarsin, creating a Sumerian empire. 

Shulgis campaign against Der {2076} contains some interesting tactical details. 
On the eve of battle Shulgi apparently destroyed some irrigation dikes, flooding 
the enemy's positions: ''The banks of the River Diyala and the River Taban he 
smashed, and in a swamp he annihilated the enemy. [In] the land which he inun- 
dated he smashed his enemy's weapon" (R3/2: 142-3). Thereafter, Shulgi under- 
mined the walls of Der and destroyed the city: "I [Shulgi] arrived at the rebellious 
land [of Der]; [my army] ripped out the brickwork [of its walls] by its foundation. 
May the city I have smitten not be restored! The houses which I destroyed were 
ruined heaps" (R3/2:103). After the destruction of Der, Shulgi built two 
fortresses — Shulgi-Nanna and Ishim-Shulgi - to maintain Sumerian control of 
the region (R3/2:103), assigning Ur-Suena as military governor of the area 

Thereafter Shulgi was at war on a regular basis. One of his major efforts was in 
the north against the Hurrian invaders, who had migrated into much of northern 
Mesopotamia during the Gutian period. Shulgi launched three multi-year wars 
against them in the upper Tigris region. Although he was generally successful in 
these campaigns, the Hurrians remained an important and growing military 
power. 16 Most of Shulgi 's campaigns are only vaguely described, with standardized 
formula such as "the year X was destroyed". Some of these sites cannot: be securely 
identified. Shulgi claimed victory over Karahar {2071}, Harshi {2068}, Shasru 
{2053}, and Simashki (R3/2:104, 108; 451). At some point in the latter part of his 
reign, Shulgi added to his original title "mighty man, king of Ur", the title "king 
of the Lands of Sumer and Akkad" and "king of the four quarters [of the world]" 
(R3/2:149), indicating his claim to military pre-eminence in Mesopotamia 
(93/2:1 11-16). 

We are given more detail on a few of his campaigns. Over the course of twenty 
years Shulgi campaigned against the recalcitrant Hurrian stronghold of Simurruni 
five times {2069, 2068, 2062, 2050, 2049}, eventually capturing the city and its king 
Tappan-Darah. This was considered a great victory, as it is referenced several times 
in later oracular literature (R3/2: 104-5). Attempting to improve relations with Elam, 
Shulgi married his daughter to the "governor of Anshan" in 2065. The alliance 
was unstable, however, and he invaded and defeated Anshan in 2061 (R3/2:104— 5). 

There are signs in the later part of Shulgi 's reign of increasing military stress. In 
2059 he built the "Wall of the Land", also known as the "Wall Facing the High 
land". The location of Shulgi s wall is not certain, but it was probably aimed al 
preventing incursions by the Tidnumite nomad tribe of the Amorites (R3/2:106) 
The "highlands" possibly refers to Mount Bishri (Bashar) to the west of the Upper 
Euphrates, which had been a haunt of Amorite nomads since the days of Narain 
Sin two centuries earlier. If so, the wall was the first attempt to limit or control the 
access of the Amorites into central Mesopotamia. The building of the wall was leli 
in the care of his general Puzur-Shulgi; part of the Icitei in whn h Shulgi ouli i 
the building of the wall has survived: 

The wall is to be finished in the period of one month! There are to be no 
further inquiries pertaining to these building activities! For now the Tidnum 
| tribe of the Amorite nomads] have come down from the mountain (R3/ 

lis letter seems to indicate that the building of the wall was taking longer than 
ipected and presumably going over budget, and that part of the reason for this 
is that the Tidnum nomads were harassing the builders, having already "come 
i) from the mountain". 

This wall seems to be the first phase of the more famous "wall that repels 
u< nites" which was built by Shusm against incursions by Amorite nomads, 
►resenting the beginning of a shift from an offensive posture against highlanders 
defensive walls to limit their raids. This represents a significant psychological 
ifi in the martial mentality of the age: the Amorites, Hurrians, and Gutians 
mi iot be decisively defeated - the best we can do is hold them at bay. This "great 
Wr mentality, more famous in its monumental Chinese manifestation, became 
ftdamental to the Ur III martial policy in the twenty-first century The wall was 
■ I ompanied by the development of military garrison colonies and cities along a 
R nsive zone facing the Zagros Mountains to attempt to prevent incursions from 
Ighlanders (DZ 153-6). The wall and defensive zone may have been initially 
essful, for we hear of no further Tidnum incursions for over twenty years. On 
i 'flier hand, as noted below, the policy was ultimately to fail 
In the last five years of Shulgi's reign {2051-2047} Ur was involved in repeated 
impaigns against coalitions of partially subdued Hurrian city-states in northern 
bopotamia. The problems began with a coalition between the city of 
"mui-rum - which Shulgi had already defeated three times - and the highlanders 
I I ullubu. Shulgi claims to have defeated them in 2051. If so, it was not a decisive 
i( tory, for in 2050 they were back in alliance with Urbillum (modern Arbil) and 
ii 1 1 Kir. The campaigns of 2049-2047 were directed against another rebel coali- 
b« of Kimash, Hurti, and Harshi (R3/2: 107-9; 455), whose defeated dead he 
k aped up [in] a pile of corpses" (R3/2:141). The need for repeated campaigns 
unst Hurrian and Lullubi coalitions again points to declining military strength, 
rhaps associated with the fact that Shulgi was by now probably in his sixties or 
- lines, and may have been too old to effectively rule or lead his armies. Despite 
h mixed success in warfare, Ur was none the less the predominant military 
power of Mesopotamia at the death of Shulgi. 

Military themes in the Shulgi hymns (TSH) 

lin,rl of ki »K Shulgi of Ur {2094-2047} - who proclaimed himself a 

init) prepared a number of panegyric hymns praising the kings divine 

iltties, including Ins military prowess. It goes without saying that the king is 

undsomr, stmnj-, courteous and brave (TSH 73-5). By all accounts Shulgi was a 

"I"'!' .iihlrtc. I.r [hums o! run from Nippui to Ur (over 100 miles) 


I 1 ! 


some 1500 years before Phidippides' more famous effort in Greece (R3/2:97, 
157; Her. 6.106), in which he was later emulated by Ishme-Dagan of Ism 

The Shulgi hymns provide us with some detailed literary narratives of actual 
combat in Neo-Sumerian times. One of Shulgi's hymns gives an epic description 
of a battle against the Gutians. Despite its hyperbole, poetic language and ritual 
setting, the hymn provides a useful window into the characteristics of Sumerian 
battle. The battle begins with an exchange of missile fire: 

I will raise my spear against [the enemy] 

I will set up my banner against the border of the foreign land 

I will fill my quiver, 

My bow will distend, ready to shoot, like a raging serpent, 

The barbed arrows will flash before me like lightening 

The barbar-ar rows, like swiftly flying bats 

Will fly into the "mouth of its battle". 

Slingstones will pour down on its people; 

Heavy clay lumps, like the "hand stones", 

Will be striking on their back. 

The crushed people of the rebellious land, 

I will cut down with my bow and sling like locusts. (TSH 79) 

Following the missile exchange, the battle transforms into a bloody melee witli 
maces and axes: 

My [mace?] will sharpen its teeth at the "head of the land" 

My m^wm- weapon will shed the blood of the people like water. 

My weapon, the double-edged axe, 

Will [spill?] their blood, which will cover the [land] 

Having been spilled on the highland, the contents of a broken wine-jug . . . 

In its wadis the blood will flow like water. (TSH 79) 

In many periods of history, being taken captive after a battle or siege was often 
only marginally more satisfactory than dying. But in the ancient Near East the 
plight of the prisoner was particularly miserable. Royal prisoners were often mar- 
ched naked and in stocks back to the capital of the victorious king, where they 
were paraded in triumph, brought before the gods, and ritually debased by having 
the victorious king stand on their heads or bodies in the courtyards before the 
temples of the gods. The great hero Shulgi boasts that he will "set my foot on his 
[the defeated king's] head ... I will make him die amid dripping blood" (TSH 77); 
the enemy was ritually executed by being disemboweled (TSH 77) in what prob 
ably amounted to a form of human sacrifice. 

In the aftermath of the battle the adults were often killed, children were 
enslaved, and the fields and city destroyed. 

1 I > 


I he children of the foreign land, he made them embark on his ships 

I he adults he killed in revenge.. . . 

I he hero avenged his city, 

Whatever has been destroyed in Sumer, he destroyed in the foreign [Gutian] 
land ... In its cultivated fields of shining barley, he caused weeds to grow, 
I I e destroyed its wide and large trees with the axe. . . . 

The king, after he destroyed the city, ruined the city walls . . . 
I [e dispersed the seed of the Gutians like seed-grain. (TSH 85) 

I ii iv other prisoners were kept as slaves and sent to work on agriculture, canal 
;ing, mining, and quarrying or building projects (USP 47-50). 
\lier the victory, great plunder is brought back to Sumer in a triumphal 

The pure lapis-lazuli of the foreign land he loaded into leather-bags 

I le heaped up all its treasures 

\ massed all the wealth of the foreign land, 

I I s fattened oxen and fattened sheep. 

I [e invokes the name of [the god] Enlil, 
I le invokes the name of [the god] Ninlil 

The hero [Shulgi], having carried out a noble revenge in the foreign land 

| The king rode in] his shining royal magur-hodX . . . 

Shulgi, the righteous shepherd of Sumer, 

Placed his feet upon [his enemy's neck] 

I Fpon a throne he took seat. 

Die sim and ala-drums resounded for him, 

The tigi-drums played for him music: 

My king has destroyed the foreign land, you have plundered its cities 
I ike a wild bull in the mountain", 
Sang the singers a song for him. (TSH 85-7) 

1 1 ill; 1 , i then enters the temple of Enlil, dedicating the plunder to the gods, and 

• < riving in return a divine decree of long, prosperous, and victorious rule (TSH 

9), In another context it is clear that the soldiers also received their fair share of 

inder. Alter defeating the Elamites, the king "brought the booty to the god 

1 1 1 hi. my lord, in Nippur, and marked it for him. The remainder I presented as a 

lit to my troops" (R3/2:66). 

Amarsin (Amar-Suena) {2046-2038} 


i ill the reign of Amarsin is rather poorly documented for military affairs. 

hi it in Mm ceded his father Shulgi in the midst of an ongoing war with Urbil- 

iuiit. against which he dispatched his general Niridagal in 2045 (R3/2:236), Nir- semis to have (let lsively defeated that city, which is later listed as having an 

i I ; 


Ur- appointed military governor (R3/2:324). Thereafter Amarsin turned his 
attention to the north, launching two expeditions under general Haship-atal 
against Shashrum and Shuruthum in 2043 and 2041. According to the recon- 
struction of events by Frayne (R3/2:238-9), the campaign went northwest 
from the Diyala river, also conquering the cities of Rashap and Arrapha. In 
2040 Amarsin invaded Huhnuri in Elam (R3/2:239). At some point in his reign 
he built a "watchtower" in Ur, but its precise military function, if any, is obscure 

Some idea of the size of the empire of Ur can be discerned by the seal 
inscriptions of Ur-appointed city governors. Eventually the rulers of Ur are 
known to have had dependent governors in at least sixteen Mesopotamian cities, 
including Umma, Push, Kish, Lagash, Kazallu, Nippur, Sharrakum, Adab, Ishkun- 
Sin, Shuruppak, Marad, Simudar, Kutha, Uruk, and Eresh (R3/2:xli-xliv, 3, 271- 
7). There were undoubtedly other governors as well, for whom we lack records, 
along with additional vassal states. There were other cities with known Sumerian 
governors outside of Sumer itself, including Ashur, Babylon, Eshnunna, Simur 
rum, and Susa in Elam (R3/2:27T-7); Ashur was governed by a general (gir.nita) 
named Zarriqum (R3/2:278, AT.9). 

At the height of its power the empire of Ur III was divided into three zones, 
each with a different relationship to the city of Ur. 18 In the central heartland of 
Sumer and Akkad (southern and central Mesopotamia), the cities were ruled by 
governors directly appointed by the king of Ur, directly paying taxes (bald) of 
goods and services. The second zone, along the central Tigris valley and parts of 
Elam, were conquered lands which had garrisons of soldiers (erin) with military 
commanders (shagina) appointed from Ur. These provinces paid the "tribute of the 
provinces" (gun mada) in livestock and other products. In one year alone this tri- 
bute amounted to 28,000 cattle and 350,000 sheep (CAM 102). The third zone- 
consisted of allied and vassal states, who had their own independent rulers but who 
were dependent in some way on Ur. This region is rather amorphous and infor 
mal, with changeable relations with specific cities, but included at different times 
parts of western Iran, the upper Tigris, the middle Euphrates and parts of Syria. 
These regions sent ambassadors to Ur, intermarried with the royal family, and sent 
various forms of tribute or diplomatic gifts (HE2:85-101). The middle Euphrates, 
including Mari and Ebla, seemed to have some type of tributary status to Ur (HE 
2:125—33), while ambassadors were received from as far away as Byblos on the 
Mediterranean coast (EH2:122). In 2048 Shulgi received tribute (gun) from Ebl.i 
consisting of "500 tilpanu-wezpom of sudianum-vsood and 500 containers ( G ^.kab-kul) 
of the same wood" (HE2: 128-9), which I interpret to be 500 bows and quivers 
(see p. 91). This substantial tribute in weapons points to some type of vassalage on 
the part of Ebla to Ur, and further emphasizes the importance of archery in Nco 
Sumerian armies. 

Amarsin's overall predominance in Mesopotamia is reflected in his continuinv 
claim to the title "king of the four quarters |of tin- u<mU|" later legend 
remember that, during Amarsin's reign, "the homeland n-\i«ln-d" (K \ ?. 136) bui 

I I 


cannot be confirmed by any contemporary documents. It seems succession 
M i nrred without incident. 

Shusin {2037-2029} and the Amorite Wars 

hAilitarily speaking, Shusin's reign is one of the better documented of the Ur III 

K nasty (R3/2:285-359). As noted above, most of Shusin's predecessors had 

used their attention on the conquest of the Tigris valley in north-eastern Iraq. 

'nh this flank stabilized, Shusin turned his attention to the west and the middle 

i I'h rates basin. Early in his reign he entered into a military alliance with the 

■I ih Euphrates city-state of Simanum (north-east Syria) through the marriage of 

daughter Kunshi-matum to Arib-atal, son of king Pusham. 19 Although the 

nls are unknown, in 2036 a coup occurred in which Pusham and his family 

1 1 ousted from power. The perpetrators of the coup are not named, but they 

) have been Elurrians, and they received assistance from the Amorite nomads. 

'nli the help of the gods Enlil and Inanna, Shusin - who "makes the foreign 

Ountry tremble" — launched a campaign against the rebels in Simanum in 2035, 

bit h quickly turned into a much larger extended war with the Amorites. 

I Usui his base at Ashur, Shusin led the army of Ur northward up the Tigris, 
H <uiring Nineveh, Talmush, and Habura. At this time Nineveh seems to have 
pen in the domain of the Hurrian king Tish-atal of Urkish (modern Mozan), 
vho appears to have dominated the upper Tigris during the early Ur III period, 

• I who may have been Shusin's uncle. 20 Shusin continued his march up the 

us, eventually reaching Simanum, where Shusin "smote the heads of Sima- 

iii Habura, and the surrounding districts". With the rebels defeated, Pusham 

1 Ins family were restored to the throne. 

We are provided with some details of the fate of prisoners from this campaign, 
Uio were deported and settled in a new town on the frontier of Nippur, perhaps 

work on Shusin's defensive wall described below. Shusin boasts: "Since the 
nythical] days of decreeing the fates [at the foundation of the world], no king has 
f il dished a town for the god Enlil and the goddess Ninlil on the frontier of 
ippur, with people he had captured." This type of mass deportation of citizens 

in defeated cities would become a standard practice throughout Mesopotamian 
litory. Conquered people became in many ways a form of war plunder, to be 
"lire ted and transported just like silver or lapis lazuli or building timber. Warfare 

ited a mobile market of displaced migrant workers whom the kings could move 

• support new agricultural or building projects. 

I Vspite this victory, Shusin was forced to deal with an ongoing threat from the 
tmoritc nomads, which his grandfather Shulgi had temporarily suppressed twenty 
s earlier, in around 2059. The Amorite nomads of the Tidnum tribe had 
idy been raiding, or migrating into, the agricultural land along the middle 
uphratcs, since Shusin's continuing campaign in 2034 is said to have been 
iidertaken in order to "remove any cause for complaint from the [people who 
■ >\\ the] furrows nl the |agricultural| land |by| vengeance [against the] Tidnum 

1 I i 


[nomadic raids]" (R3/2:290). Perhaps using the newly conquered Simanum as 
base, in 2035 Shusin launched an attack against the Tidnum Amorite nomadv 
possibly advancing as far as Aleppo (Yamhad) (R3/2:290, 299, 301). He claimi 
that "the big mountains [where the Amorites live] were subdued . . . the towih 
the populations, and their settlements, were turned into ruins". 

Despite these claims, the campaign was far from decisive, for in the followin 
year, 2034, Shusin decided to build "the Amorite wall called Tt keeps [the] Tie! 
num [nomads] at a distance' " (K3/2:290, 328). A letter from the building com 
missioner to king Shusin provides an informative description of the wall: 

To Shusin, my king . . . thus says Sharrum-bani, the high commissioner, youi 
servant. You have sent me as an envoy in order to build the great wall "II 
keeps Amorites at a distance". I am presenting to you how matters stand. Tli 
Amorites are descending upon the land. You have instructed me to build iM 
wall, to cut off their path so that they may not overwhelm the fields by .i 
breach between the Tigris and Euphrates.... As a result of my building 
activities the wall is now 26 danna long. When I sent for word to the area 
between the two mountains it was brought to my attention that the [Amoi 
ites] were encamped in the mountains. [The Hurrians at] Simurrum had 
come to their aid. Therefore I proceeded to the area "between" the mountain 
ranges of Ebih in order to do battle. 21 

The text is somewhat vague, but it seems the Amorites had already crossed thi 
Euphrates, probably in the north, and were raiding southward between thi 
Euphrates and the Tigris. The wall was being built from the banks of the Tigris t< 
the Euphrates to forestall further penetration southward into central and southern 
Mesopotamia. Ruins of this earth and clay wall - estimated to have been about 
170 miles (280 km) long - can still be seen north of Baghdad. 22 The wall would 
thus be similar to Nebuchadnezzar's later "Wall of Media". The "mountain range 
of Ebih" have not been identified with certainty, but might perhaps have reference 
to the twin mountains Abd al-Aziz and Sinjar in northern Mesopotamia. 'IT 
building of this wall shows the concern over the growing military threat from ch< 
Amorites, who would eventually participate in the destruction of the empire o 
Ur. None the less, Shusin's campaigns were successful in temporarily holding the 
Amorite threat at bay. 

The Zagros highlanders posed a simultaneous threat which was opposed with i 
vigorous campaign in 2031 against Indasu, king of Zabshali (R3/2:30T-6). Shusin 
describes their depredations as being "like a swarm of locusts from the border ol 
Anshan (in south-east Iran] to the Upper [Mediterranean] Sea", listing ovei 
dozen subsidiary tribes or city-states who formed a confederation against I U 
Details of the battle are lacking; attention is paid to killing, scattering, and decap 
itating the enemy, finally piling their corpses into a heap. The captured leadci 
were bound and brought as captives before the god luilil Others scattered 
attempting to . . . 


ive their lives by fleeing to their cities, [but Shusin marched] against their 

i nes, screeching like an Anzu [dragon]. He turned their cities into ruined 

heaps; he destroyed their walls. He blinded the men of those cities . . . and 

ublished them as slaves in the orchards of the gods ... [the women] he 

'llercd as a present to the weaving mills of the god Enlil and the goddess 

mlil. (R3/2:309-12) 

i captives were enslaved and forced to work in the silver and gold mine at 

i i. one of the conquered cities. In addition to slaves, Shusin lists livestock and 

'her sacks filled with gold and silver" and bronze as his booty. In triumph, 

n created a monument depicting himself trampling the captive king Indasu, 

• with the names often other captured leaders of the coalition. 

fragmentary inscription describes a naval campaign of Shusin to "Magan 

in], along with its provinces . . . [and] the other side of the sea ..." (R3/ 

I I which could have been an extension of Shusin's Elamite campaign. The 

Miation of his campaigns on the Upper Euphrates, against Elam, and in the 

hi Gulf allowed Shusin to claim the ancient Akkadian title of ruler from the 

>i to the Upper Sea" (R3/2:302, 317), maintaining the Third Dynasty of Ur 

dominant power in Mesopotamia. 

Ibbisin (Ibbi-Suen) {2028-2004} and the fall ofUr 23 

ms reign marked the decline and collapse of the Ur III dynasty, unleashing an 

iii!» period of invasion and chaos. Ibbisin s year names and inscriptions show 

more concern with religious ritual than with the collapsing military and poli- 

ii nation of Ur. None the less, a number of campaigns are mentioned. For the 

i part these were defensive in nature, against provinces or cities which had 

i submitted to Ur, but had now gained independence. 

In 2023 {Y6} Ibbisin undertook repairs and expansion on the walls of Nippur 

lh, perhaps reflecting a perception of an increasing threat to the heartland 

! 363). In a propagandistic inscription describing the building of the walls, 

i 'iiii wrote: "in order to make the land secure and to make the highlands and 

* lands bow down before him, he surrounded his city with a great wall, whose 

i holes cannot be reached, and which is like a yellow mountain" (R3/2:369). 

low a defensive wall on a city in Sumer would make the highlanders "bow 

m\\ n" before the king of Ur is not explained. The defensive attitude, perhaps an 

tension of the great wall mentality, could not mask an increasingly desperate 

■ v situation. 

1 he fall of the empire of Ur is rather well documented by the standards of the 
\ ii Iv lironze Age. Psychologically for Mesopotamians it was rather like the fall of 
1 nine m (he West, and from the military perspective it marks the end of the Early 
llrnn/e Age and the beginning of the Middle Bronze. A number of factors con- 
nhuted to the I. ill ol Ur. Internal political instability is reflected in the defection 
ind independence ol a number ol citv states in both rlie heartland and the 




periphery of the empire, which had been brought into submission by the cam 
paigns of Shulgi, Amarsin, and Shusin. "The lands that had been in obedience to 
Ur were split into factions' 5 (LD 43). By 2027 {Y2} Eshnunna and the province oi 
Simurrum had cast off allegiance, leading Ibbisin to send an army against them the 
next year (R3/2:366, 362). The campaign was apparently a failure, because the 
defections increased rapidly: Susa and Elam in 2026 {Y3}, Lagash in 2024 {Y5j, 
Umma in 2023 {Y6}, and Nippur in 2022 {Y7}. Girsu became independent 
under kings Ur-Ningirsu and Ur-Nanshe (R3/2: 427-31). 

Although we lack full documentation, other cities undoubtedly followed suit, 
while "brigands roamed the roads" (LD 42). More ominously, the Elamites were 
not only independent, but becoming increasingly hostile towards Ur, which 
would culminate in their destruction of the city In an effort to stabilize the situa- 
tion in Elam, Ibbisin "marched [eastward] with heavy forces against Huhnuri [near 
modern Behbehan] the 'open mouth' of the land of Anshan" in 2020 {Y9} (R3/ 
2:363). This operation was indecisive, however, for he was back in 2015 {Y14j : 
Ibbisin "roared like a storm against Susa, Adamdun and the land of Awan [in 
Elam]; he made them submit in a single day and took their lords as bound cap 
tives", dedicating part of the plunder to the gods. The booty from this war appears 
to have caused a temporary economic boom in Ur, but was insufficient to save the 
state (R3/2:364, 371-2). Overall, prices of foodstuffs increased manifold during 
this period. 24 

At the same time the situation was also rapidly degenerating on the north-west 
frontier, where the Amorites were becoming an increasing military threat. A series 
of letters exchanged between Ibbisin and his governors in the north-west shed an 
interesting light on the unfolding crisis. Despite the defection of south-eastern 
Mesopotamia, Isin remained temporarily loyal under its governor Ishbi-Irra. From 
2020 to 2010 {Y9-19}, the degenerating situation began to threaten the grain 
supply to Ur. Ishbi-Irra, governor of Isin, wrote to Ibbisin explaining the situation: 

Thus says Ishbi-Irra, your servant: You have instructed me to proceed on an 
expedition to Isin and Kazallu in order to purchase grain. The market price ol 
grain has reached one gur [of grain] per shekel [of silver] ... . Word having 
reached me that the hostile Amorites had entered into the midst of your land I 
brought all of the 72,000 gur of grain into Isin. And now all of the Amorites 
have entered into the land. One by one they have seized all the fortifications 
Because of the Amorites I have been unable to thresh the grain. They are too 
strong for me, I am trapped [in the city of Isin]. 25 

Here we see a countryside overrun by Amorite nomads to the extent that the Sumei 
ians are simply hiding in their cities, unable to harvest their fields as the price of grain 
skyrockets. At some point Ishbi-Irra, exasperated with the weakness of Ibbisin. 
declared his independence, leading to war with his former overlord (see pp. 1 59— 62). 

In 2013 {Y17} Ibbisin made the enigmatic claim "tins veil die Amorin 
of the southern border, who from ancient times haw kiinwn im » it us, submitted 

Ibbisin, king of Ur" (R3/2:364; AUP 94). Importantly, the text does not a 

mi military victory over the Amorites, but only that they "submitted", perhaps 

turn for a payment of tribute. This "submission", however, apparently repre- 

Bted the formation of some type of coalition between Ibbisin and the Amorites 

■mist Ishbi-Irra, the erstwhile governor of Isin; it may be alluded to in mythic 

i ins in the following inscription: "[the god] Enlil, my helper, has summoned the 

bnorites from their mountain, Elam will come to my side and catch Ishbi-Irra 

I governor of Isin]" (AUP 95). Thus, as has happened on occasion in history, 

ii two rivals are locked in a civil war for the control of an empire, one may 

mi to outside barbarians for assistance, buying short-term victory at the cost of 

term security. What exactly this submission or coalition entailed is unclear; 

bile it may have represented a temporary set-back for Ishbi-Irra, it was a major 

tory for the Amorite invaders, whose spread throughout Mesopotamia was 

by facilitated. 
Instead of providing military assistance to his beleaguered governor, Ibbisin 
ited Ishbi-Irra for dereliction of duty and malfeasance: 

lh ns says your king Ibbi-Sin: . . . You received twenty talents of silver to buy 
grain and you proceed to buy two gur of grain for each shekel, but to me you 
send one gur for each shekel. How is it that you permitted the Amorites, the 
enemy, to enter my land against Puzur-Numushda, the commandant of Bad- 
igihursagga? I sent you weapons with which to strike; how is it that you sent 
the "men without heads" [fools? decapitated soldiers?] who are in the land 
against the Amorites from the north? (R3/2:367) 

I he degenerating relations between Ibbisin and his governor eventually led to 

ul war. By 2010 {Y19} Ishbi-Irra of Isin had declared independence from the 

■ ttcetual Ibbisin, and had begun carving out his own state in central Mesopota- 

I lie situation was described by Puzur-Shugli, governor of Kazallu, apparently 

« List governor in the region loyal to Ibbisin: 

| Ishbi-Irra] has built the wall of Isin.. . . He has taken Nippur, set his men as 
the garrison, and captured Nigugani, the highest priest of Nippur. He has 
made [his general] Idi enter Malgium and plundered Hamasi. He has put 
/annum, governor of Subartu, in prison. He has returned Nur-Ahum, gov- 
ernor of Eshnunna, Shu-Enlil, governor of Kish, and Puzur-Tut, governor of 
Uorsippa, to their [former] positions [from which Ibbisin had removed them 
Idi disloyalty?].. . . Ishbi-Irra proceeds at the head of his army.. . . He captured 
the banks of the Tigris, Euphrates, [and] the Abgal and Me-Enlila canals. He 
brought in Idin-Malgium [as an ally] He quarreled with Girbubu, the gov- 
ernor of ( rirka] . . . and took him prisoner. His battle cry lies heavy upon me. 
Now he has set his eye upon me. I have no ally, no one to go [to battle] with! 
Mthoiii'h his hand has not yet reached me, should he descend upon me, I 
hall have to flee ''' 


By this time, however, Ibbisin was in no position to help his last loyal governor in 
central Mesopotamia. "Ur's king sat immobilized in the palace, all alone. Ibbi-Sin 
was sitting in anguish in the palace, all alone. In the Enamtila, the palace of his 
delight, he was crying bitterly" (LD 43). 

By 2007 {Y22} the chaos had reached the capital of Ur. Amorite nomads from 
the north, along with Gutian highlanders and Elamites, overran all of Mesopota 
mia. Ibbisin records an obscure inscription: "Ibbisin, king of Ur, held firm the city 
of Ur . . . which had been devastated by the 'flood' which had been commanded 
by the gods and which shook the whole world" (R3/2:365). Many scholars view 
this statement as a euphemistic metaphor: the "flood" is a flood of enemies who 
overran much of the kingdom, but were unable as yet to capture Ur itself. Indeed, 
this same flood metaphor is used to describe the attack of Gutians and Elamites 
against Ur (LD AX)? 1 The next year, 2006 {Y23} Ibbisin also describes the com 
ing of a "stupid monkey" to Ur, which some scholars see as a euphemism for an 
attack by an enemy king (R3/2:365). In 2005 {Y24}, the final year of Ibbisin 's 
reign, a fragmentary inscription describes the Elamites as "smiting Ur", ending the 
dynasty (R3/2:366); Ibbisin was dragged in chains to Elam (LD 39; PH 7). 

The Lament for Ur 

An important document describing the fall of Ur is The Lamentation over tin 
Destruction of Sumer and Ur (LD) — a kind of Sumerian City of God. Althougl i 
clearly a literary text filled with hyperbole, it none the less contains a vivid 
description of how the Sumerians viewed the fall of their civilization, with 
numerous details on military matters. As with all affairs in human life, the 
destruction of Ur is, from the Sumerian perspective, the result of the inscrutable 
decrees of the gods: "the gods An, Enlil, Enki, and Nimah decided its fate. Its fate, 
which cannot be changed, who can overturn it - who can oppose the commands 
of An and Enlil?" (LD 39, 37). For although "Ur was indeed given kingship [In 
the gods] ... it was not given an eternal reign" (LD 59). The war goddess "Inanna 
handed over victory in strife and battle to a rebellious land . . . revolt descended 
upon the land [of Sumer], something that no one had ever known, somethin!" 
unseen [until now]" (LD 41). 

To accomplish this decreed destruction, the gods unleashed the foreign bat 
barians, the Amorites, Gutians, and Elamites. The god "Enlil then sent down 
Gutium from the mountains. Their advance was as the flood of Enlil that cannot 
be withstood, . . . the teeming plain [of Sumer] was destroyed [by the Gutian 
invaders], no one moved about there" (LD 41). The Gutians settled in the land 
like a nest of vipers: "the snake of the mountain [the Gutians] made his lair then 
it became a rebellious land; the Gutians bred there, issued their seed" (LD 45) 
The Elamites, who would actually destroy Ur, were also unleashed by the gods 
"Enlil brought down the Elamites, the enemy, from the highlands ... Fin 
approached [the god| Ninmar in the shrine Guabba, later Uuis wciv < arrying "I 1 
its precious metals and stones [as plunder)" (1 1 J I' 1 Iikr\\i\<- the nom.ud 

I ><i 


niorites from the west joined in the slaughter: "To the south, the Elarrhti e P- 

d in, slaughtering ... To the north, the [Amorite] vandals, the enemy . The 

\ 1 1 lonte] Tidnumites daily strapped the mace to their loins [for battle] " (LD -3 ) • 

I he culmination of these invasions was the siege of Ur by the Elamite Tlie 

Mu-nt of the poet, who may have been an eyewitness, provides our mos ivid 

"iint of a siege from ancient Mesopotamia: 

I aments sounded all along its city wall, 

I )aily there was a slaughter before it. 

I drge axes were sharpened in front of Ur, 

The spears, the arms of battle, were being launched, 

The large bows, javelin, and siege-shield gather together to strike, 

The barbed arrows covered its outside [wall] like a raining cloud, 

I arge stones [from slings], one after another, fell with great thuds.. . . 

I h, which had been confident in its own strength, stood ready for slau ter ' 

Its people, oppressed by the enemy, could not withstand their weapons 

Those in the city who had not been felled by weapons died of hunger, 

I lunger filled the city like water, it would not cease.. . . 

Its people dropped their weapons, their weapons hit the ground.. 

Ur - inside it there is [only] death, outside it there is [only] death, 

Inside it we are being finished off by famine, 

< hitside it we are being finished off by the Elamite weapons.. . . 

I .lain, like a swelling flood wave, left only the spirits of the dead.. 

I I h\s] refugees were unable to flee, they were trapped inside the walls. (LD 1_3 ) 

rounded and starving, the citizens of Ur finally give way to despair, disse] ion ' 
I i reachery: 

In Ur no one went to fetch food, no one went to fetch drink, 
lis people rush around like water churning in a well, 
I heir strength has ebbed away; they cannot even go on their way, 
I I he god] Enlil afflicted the city with an inimical famine, 
He afflicted the city with something that destroys cities, that destroys ten° les ' 
He afflicted the city with something that cannot be withstood with wea ons ' 
He afflicted the city with dissatisfaction and treachery. (LD 55) 

the end, the Elamites breached the walls and sacked the city, and "Ur, like ci ty 
• ( has been wrought by the hoe, became a ruined mound" (LD 59). "Th( sol ~ 

n of Shimashki and Elam, the enemy, dwell in their [the Sumerians'] ^ ace ' 
miki'sI shepherd [king] is captured by the enemy, all alone; Ibbisin is tab to 

1 ind oi Elam in letters" (LD 39). 

Ill' h "I the rest of the Lamentation consists of poetic descriptions of the ( eso ~ 

■ifha the fall of Ur, with temples deserted, cities destroyed, unpl^ tcd 

»'d infested fields, and livestock captured. People were massacred, lc; vm < ! ' 


By this time, however, Ibbisin was in no position to help his last loyal governor in 
central Mesopotamia. "Ur's king sat immobilized in the palace, all alone. Ibbi-Sin 
was sitting in anguish in the palace, all alone. In the Enamtila, the palace of his 
delight, he was crying bitterly" (LD 43). 

By 2007 {Y22} the chaos had reached the capital of Ur. Amorite nomads from 
the north, along with Gutian highlanders and Elamites, overran all of Mesopota 
mia. Ibbisin records an obscure inscription: "Ibbisin, king of Ur, held firm the city 
of Ur . . . which had been devastated by the 'flood' which had been commanded 
by the gods and which shook the whole world" (R3/2:365). Many scholars view 
this statement as a euphemistic metaphor: the "flood" is a flood of enemies who 
overran much of the kingdom, but were unable as yet to capture Ur itself Indeed, 
this same flood metaphor is used to describe the attack of Gutians and Elamites 
against Ur (LD AY). 21 The next year, 2006 {Y23} Ibbisin also describes the coin 
ing of a "stupid monkey" to Ur, which some scholars see as a euphemism for an 
attack by an enemy king (R3/2:365). In 2005 {Y24}, the final year of Ibbisin 
reign, a fragmentary inscription describes the Elamites as "smiting Ur", ending th< 
dynasty (R3 72:366); Ibbisin was dragged in chains to Elam (LD 39; PH 7). 

The Lament Joy Uy 

An important document describing the fall of Ur is The Lamentation over tfa 
Destruction of Sumer and Ur (LD) — a kind of Sumerian City of God. Although 
clearly a literary text filled with hyperbole, it none the less contains a vivid 
description of how the Sumerians viewed the fall of their civilization, with 
numerous details on military matters. As with all affairs in human life, th« 
destruction of Ur is, from the Sumerian perspective, the result of the inscrutable 
decrees of the gods: "the gods An, Enlil, Enki, and Nimah decided its fate. Its fate, 
which cannot be changed, who can overturn it - who can oppose the commands 
of An and Enlil?" (LD 39, 37). For although "Ur was indeed given kingship |b\ 
the gods] ... it was not given an eternal reign" (LD 59). The war goddess "Inann.i 
handed over victory in strife and battle to a rebellious land . . . revolt descended 
upon the land [of Sumer], something that no one had ever known, something 
unseen [until now]" (LD 41). 

To accomplish this decreed destruction, the gods unleashed the foreign bar 
barians, the Amorites, Gutians, and Elamites. The god "Enlil then sent down 
Gutium from the mountains. Their advance was as the flood of Enlil that cannot 
be withstood, ... the teeming plain [of Sumer] was destroyed [by the Gutian 
invaders], no one moved about there" (LD 41). The Gutians settled in the land 
like a nest of vipers: "the snake of the mountain [the Gutians] made his lair then 
it became a rebellious land; the Gutians bred there, issued their seed" (LD I > 
The Elamites, who would actually destroy Ur, were also unleashed by the god 
"Enlil brought down the Elamites, the enemy, from the highlands ... fin 
approached [the god] Ninmar in the shrine Guabba, large boats were < arrying oil 
its precious metals and stones |as plunder|" (ID I 'i Id i the nonudi. 


■I ites from the west joined in the slaughter: "To the south, the Elamites step- 
in, slaughtering ... To the north, the [Amorite] vandals, the enemy . . . The 

norite] Tidnumites daily strapped the mace to their loins [for battle]" (LD 51-3). 

I lie culmination of these invasions was the siege of Ur by the Elamites. The 
ni of the poet, who may have been an eyewitness, provides our most vivid 
nut of a siege from ancient Mesopotamia: 

I .nnents sounded all along its city wall, 

I > lily there was a slaughter before it. 

I arge axes were sharpened in front of Ur, 

I he spears, the arms of battle, were being launched, 

I he large bows, javelin, and siege-shield gather together to strike, 

I he barbed arrows covered its outside [wall] like a raining cloud, 

I arge stones [from slings], one after another, fell with great thuds.. . . 

Ur, which had been confident in its own strength, stood ready for slaughter, 

Its people, oppressed by the enemy, could not withstand their weapons. 

I hose in the city who had not been felled by weapons died of hunger, 

I lunger filled the city like water, it would not cease 

lis people dropped their weapons, their weapons hit the ground 

Ur - inside it there is [only] death, outside it there is [only] death, 

Inside it we are being finished off by famine, 

I hitside it we are being finished off by the Elamite weapons.. . . 

I lam, like a swelling flood wave, left only the spirits of the dead 

I I Fr's] refugees were unable to flee, they were trapped inside the walls. (LD 61-3) 

rounded and starving, the citizens of Ur finally give way to despair, dissension, 
d treachery: 

In Ur no one went to fetch food, no one went to fetch drink, 

Its people rush around like water churning in a well, 

I heir strength has ebbed away; they cannot even go on their way, 

| I he god] Enlil afflicted the city with an inimical famine, 

I le afflicted the city with something that destroys cities, that destroys temples, 

Me afflicted the city with something that cannot be withstood with weapons, 

I le afflicted the city with dissatisfaction and treachery. (LD 55) 

die end, the Elamites breached the walls and sacked the city, and "Ur, like a city 

■ I has been wrought by the hoe, became a ruined mound" (LD 59). "The sol- 

ol Shimashki and Elam, the enemy, dwell in their [the Sumerians'] place, 

i s| shepherd [king] is captured by the enemy, all alone; Ibbisin is taken to 

land ol Khun in fetters" (LD 39). 

Mu< 1 1 oi the lest ol the Lamentation consists of poetic descriptions of the deso- 

' Mene .iftei the (all oi Ur, with temples deserted, cities destroyed, unplanted 

d mlested fields, ami livestock captured. People were massacred, leaving 

I 'I 


"corpses floating in the Euphrates" (LD 42), while others were enslaved (LD 53). 
The few survivors are "refugees, like stampeding goats, chased by dogs" (LD 47) 
who were "scattered as far as Anshan" (R4:17). The text lists many majot 
Sumerian cities destroyed by invading Gutium and Elamites, repeating the refrain, 
"Adas, the destroyed city, my destroyed temple." With these invasions the old 
Sumerian order and the Early Bronze Age ended. The new political and military 
order of Mesopotamia was to be forged by Amorite warlords (see Chapter Six). 

Ideal warfare in the Epic of Ninurta 

Though describing a mythical tale of the gods, the Epic of Ninurta (HTO 233- 
72) provides our most detailed literary account of the Neo-Sumerian army at 
war. 28 Written in the twenty-second century, shortly after the overthrow of the 
Gutian highlanders from Mesopotamia, the myth centers around the great struggle 
between the god Ninurta and Azag, a demonic ruler of the Zagros Mountains to 
the north-east of Sumeria and personification of the Sumerian view of the high 
land warriors such as the Gutians. Azag is plotting to "take away the kingship and 
sacred offices" of Ninurta in Sumeria, just as the Gutians had done (HTO 239). 
Azag is a "fearless warrior", a "killer out of the highland", a "towering man" and 
"true fighter" whose highland "warriors constantly come raiding the cities" of 
Sumeria (HTO 237-8). 

Ninurta is roused to anger by these incursions, and raises an army to destroy 
Azag. The advance of his army to battle is compared with the terror and destruc 
tiveness of a rising storm and flood: 

Rising, the lord [Ninurta] abutted heaven 

Ninurta marching to battle kept abreast of the hours 

A very storm he went to war, 

Rode on seven gales against the rebel country. 

Javelins he held cradled in the arm, 

The opened its mouth against the mountains, 

The weapons raged at the hostile horde. 

The evil wind and the south storm were tethered to him, 

The flood storm strode at their flanks, 

And before the warrior went a huge irresistible tempest, 

It was tearing up the dust, depositing it again 

Evening out hill and dale, filling in the hollows; 

Live coals [lightening] it rained down [from heaven] 

Fire burned, flames scorched. (HTO 240—1) 

Mesopotamia was a land criss-crossed by rivers and canals, and boats were used 
to transport troops and supplies in almost all campaigns. This is reflected in the epn 
as Ninurta "hastened toward battle" in "the boat Makarnuntaea ' sailing fron 
the royal quay' " (HTO 241). As Ninurta approached the l.nul »>! A/ai'. he sent 

I * ■ 


1 1 id agents "slipping into the rebel country" to "cut off communication 
tueen its cities" (HTO 241). His agents "brought an enemy captive back" to 
1 1 ( >gate, while bringing additional information about the enemy's movements 
l preparations (HTO 242). 

\\ hen combat finally came, Ninurta s "heart was brightening for him from 
mire in this lion-headed mace". The pre-battle arming of Ninurta is described like 

I nbrace of the beloved". In pre-battle preparations, a small portable shrine for the 
\ .is established for prayer, sacrifice, and divination (HTO 243). The marshaling 

m ips for battle is described as preparations for a religious ritual, "the festival of 
hood, [the war-goddess] Inanna's dance" (HTO 243). This may refer either to 
battle war-dance undertaken in honor of Inanna, or a description of actual 
bal as being a ritual dance honoring Inanna. This relationship of dancing with 
may point to the rote-learning of combat actions and marching in unison in 

form of a ritual war-dance.. In some ways these war-dances are probably the 

in of martial arts - the teaching of stylized patterns of combat through dance. 

I hroughout the myth, Ninurta's mace, named Sharur, is described as a sentient 
"!', who spies for Ninurta and gives him council (HTO 236-8). This may sim- 

U the personification of a divine weapon, but may alternatively reflect a 
i < of giving weapon-titles to great champions of the king, just as Ninurta 

II is called the sky-god "An's mace" (HTO 242). Elsewhere in the epic, 
mirta's soldiers armed with long spears are simply called his "long spears" (HTO 

Ninurta holds a war council, and his councilors advise caution, fearing the 
m ! of Azag in his mountain retreats; "we will prove no match for Azag; we 
not to enter the highland!" (HTO 244). 
I iturally, Ninurta is not dissuaded by their fears, but marshals his troops for 

! tl 

I he lord [Ninurta] stretched the thigh 

[The chariot pulled by a] donkey steed was mounted 

I le girded himself with warbelt 

( 'a st over the highland his long august shadow . . . 

I hito Azag's stronghold [in the highland] he attained 

And stood in the front line of battle 

He gave his [regiment of] long spears instructions . . . 

I he lord called upon his weapons, set out most completely arrayed. 

battle itself is described as overwhelming natural chaos, with the sky darken- 
mder the rising dust cloud caused by the combatants. 

I Hi" the hay i he warrior [Ninurta] rushed . . . 

i n\v and battle sling he wielded well, 

Shattered was the |anny of the] highland, it dissolved 

Mefore Niniii ta's battle array 

As the w.iiiiui | Ninur t.i | ordered his weapons "gird yourself" [for battle]. 

I ' I 



The sun marched no longer [through the sky], it had turned into a moon, 
In the highland the [mountain] peaks were wiped from [view] 
The day was made black like pitch [from the dust] (HTO 244) . 

The enemy king Azag, however, described as a gigantic dragon which struck 
fear into the hearts of the gods, was not yet defeated: "Azag rose to attack in the 
front line of battle" (HTO 245-6). At least in mythic texts, kings challenge each 
other to single combat (HTO 297), or use champions (HTO 309-10); one such 
champion is described as wearing a lion skin (HTO 316). Such a single combat 
occurs between Ninurta and Azag, described metaphorically as a struggle between 
the natural forces of desert and water (HTO 245—7). The enemy "sent arrows 
flying at [Ninurta] . . . and threw elite troops against him like bolts of lightening' 1 
(HTO 258). The combat culminated in Ninurta's final charge: 

Howling like a storm, [carrying] his long spear, 
Ninurta . . . rammed his battalion like a prod into the highland. . . . 
The mittu-ma.ce smote [enemy] heads with its bitter teeth, 
The shita-weapon, which plucks out hearts, gnashed its teeth, 
The long spear was stuck [through the enemy] into the ground 
While blood flowed from the hole it made. (HTO 248) 

Ninurta is described as a "warrior, striding into battle, trampling down all 
before him, putting a fighter's hand to the mittu-mzce, reaping like grain the necks 
of the [enemies]" (HTO 235). At last Azag's army begins to collapse: 

The warrior [Ninurta] set up a howl loudly in the highland . . . 

He battered the heads of the enemy horde, 

The highland was brought to tears, 

The lord [Ninurta] bound up [captured] soldier teams like looted goods . . . 

Ninurta passed through the [dead] enemies 

Laid them out as if they were fatted calves. (HTO 249-50) 

Azag is killed by Ninurta, who celebrates his victory by ritually dismembering 
Azag's corpse, perhaps in imitation of the god Marduk's dismemberment of tin- 
monster Tiamat at creation (MFM 254—5). Abuse of enemy corpses in Mesopo 
tamia should probably be understood in this mythic context. 

The victory was followed a cleansing ritual in which the arms and body wei i 
cleaned from the gore of battle. 

The lord [Ninurta] rinsed belt and weapon in water, 

Rinsed the mittu-m&ce in water, 

The warrior wiped his brow — 

And sounded the victory cry over the corpse (of A/ag|; 

He carved up Azag, who he had killed like a fitted i .ill ill I ( > ' ><)) 


I Ins ritual is probably alluded to in several royal inscriptions in which the kings 

i h their weapons in the waters of the ocean (R2:ll, 14, 17, 32, 97). 

With Azag and the highland army defeated, Ninurta brings civilization, irriga- 

■ii and agriculture to the area (HTO 250-4), including fortifications to protect 

tneria: "He made a bank of stones against the highland ... and placed it as a 

U before the country [of Mesopotamia] like a great wall" (HTO 252). He then 

ible to exploit the "gold and silver . . . copper and tin" of the region (HTO 

15), as well as numerous types of stones and gems (HTO 256-68). Returning to 

boat Makarnuntaea, which had been left in the river valley, Ninurta sails 

ome in triumph, where he is met with hymns praising his great victory (HTO 

.; 7i). 

What we have in the epic of Ninurta is a complete description of the ideal 

i » Sumerian campaign, from its inception to the triumphal return of the king to 

apital. Although this ideal model could not always be fully followed in reality, 

likely that Sumerian kings made conscious efforts to have their real campaigns 

inform as closely as possible to this ideal. 

Triumphal procession 

Ifter victory the warriors celebrated a triumphal procession, to honor both the 
roes and the gods. The "Hymn to Inanna", the goddess of war, describes such a 
imph, which concludes with the ritual sacrifice of prisoners of war. 

I )rums, silver inwrought, they are beating for her - 

Before holy Inanna, before her eyes, they are parading - 

The great Queen of Heaven, Inanna, I will hail! 

I loly tambourines and holy kettledrums they are beating for her . . . 29 

The guardsmen [sag-ursag] have combed their hair for her . . . 

Iliey have made colorful for her the back hair with colored ribbons . . . 
( >n their bodies are sheep skin robes, the dress of divinities . . . 

I hey are girt with implements of battle . . . 
Spears, the arms of battle, are in their hands . . . 
Playfully, with painted buttocks, they engage in single combat . . . 
( aptive [enemy] lads in neck stocks bewail to her their fate . . . 
I diggers and maces rage before her . . . 

I he kurgaru |warriors] mounted on chariots swing the maces . . . 
( .ore is covering the daggers, blood sprinkles . . . 
In the courtyard of the place of assembly 

I Ik temple administrator-priests are shedding blood 

As loudly resounds there the music of tigi-hzrps, tambourines and lyres. 
(HTO 11 5 17) 

in likely thai celebrations like this were organized for most victorious armies, 
Toh.ibl\ represent the archai< origins of the later Roman triumphs. 


Warfare in the Epic of Gilgamesh 

The Epic of Gilgamesh is a Mesopotamian literary epic which tells of the adventures 
of Gilgamesh, king of Uruk. The historical Gilgamesh reigned as king in the early 
twenty-seventh century (see pp. 46—8), and is noted for constructing the walls ol 
Uruk (EOG 1). He was worshipped as a deified king by the twenty-fourth century, 
by which time it is assumed oral tales were told of the famous ruler. The oldest 
extant parts of the Gilgamesh epic cycle date from the twenty-first century in 
Sumerian. By the eighteenth and seventeenth centuries, nearly a thousand years 
after the death of the historical Gilgamesh, the epic had reached its classical form 
in Old Babylonian (EOG lx). Thus, from a military perspective, the epic probabK 
best reflects military practices of the late third or early second millennium. 

The Epic of Gilgamesh provides a number of interesting descriptions of military 
activities associated with the battle against the monster Humbaba (EOG 22-47). 
Gilgamesh represents the ideal Mesopotamian martial king, who "has no equal 
when his weapons are brandished" (EOG 4). The first part of the epic focuses on 
Gilgamesh's battle with Humbaba on Mount Lebanon (EOG 19); although 
mythic, it none the less represents the military ideal, if not necessarily the reality. 

The description of Gilgamesh's preparations and march to Lebanon probabK 
reflect actual practices on military campaigns. When Gilgamesh conceives of the plan 
to attack Humbaba, his first act is to cast new bronze weapons: axes and daggers 
with "gold mountings" (EOG 20). He then summons the town assembly, composed 
of the elders and the "young men of Uruk who understand combat" (EOG 20—1). 
In other words, the assembly is composed of the military-age males who < 
issues of war and peace, broadly paralleling similar institutions in early Greece 
This body debates Gilgamesh's military proposal; the elders advise the king of thi 
perils of his proposed undertaking, objecting that "you are young, Gilgamesh. 
borne along by emotion; all that you talk of you don't understand" (EOG 2 
Gilgamesh laughs at their fears, and in the end the assembly gives him advice and 
prays to the gods to bless him: (EOG 28—9). They advise Gilgamesh "not to rely on 
your own strength alone", but to take Enkidu as counselor and war-companion 
(EOG 28). They also give advice in the form of a military proverb: "who goes ii 
front will save his comrade, who knows the road shall guard his friend" (EOG 2 
apparently meaning that proper scouting and intelligence will protect an army 

Gilgamesh's companion on the campaign against Humbaba, then, is Enkidn 
"savage man from the midst of the wild" (EOG 7); he probably represents th 
Mesopotamian view of highland hunters and nomads who are said to have in 
tasted bread and beer (EOG 14). Enkidu is explicitly said to have been "born ii 
the uplands" where the monster Humbaba dwells (EOG 13, 18), which are asso 
ciated with "the mountain of cedar" in Lebanon (EOG 34, 39). In strength and 
military prowess he is described as being the "equal" of Gilgamesh (EOG II, I ■ 
although Gilgamesh defeats him in a wrestling match (EOG 16). I le is repcan .1 
said to be as "mighty as a rock from the sky" (E(>( i 5, 10), possibly a referent e t. 
meteoritie iron, the hardest substance known to the Mesnputamiaus 

1 »c, 


I living prepared his weapons, met with the council of the military assembly, 

■elected his companion-at-arms, there remains the crucial issue of consulting 

ill of the gods and gaining their support. For this Gilgamesh consults his 

ither, the goddess-priestess Ninsun. In historical terms the "goddess" Ninsun 

• probably represented by her mortal high priestess, who led divination rituals 

presented oracular responses from the gods, broadly paralleling the Pythia at 

I phi or the Sybil at Cumae. Ninsun performs various purification rituals, climbs 

the top of a ziggurat, and invokes the blessings of Shamash the sun-god on 

Itf.unesh and Enkidu, concluding with a ritual in which she adopts Enkidu as 

on, and thus as Gilgamesh's brother (EOG 24-7). In a badly damaged portion 

die tablet, Gilgamesh and Enkidu also perform various rituals to insure their 

v and victory in battle (EOG 27). Such divination and the reception of 

I tble oracles were crucial for any military undertaking; no one in Bronze Age 

opotamia expected victory in battle if their plans were not approved by the 

(see pp. 186-92). 

rhe Epic of Gilgamesh thus presents us with three phases of military preparation 

In. Ii were probably normative for most Bronze Age armies: 1, preparation of 

ipons, equipment, and supplies; 2, consultation with the assembly of military- 

Mi.n to determine the battle plan and selection of those to participate in the 

ditionary force; and 3, divination and invocation of the gods to insure divine 

ihorization and blessing. Elements of these three phases of military preparation 

n be seen in many other historical and literary sources. 

I he inarch from Uruk to the Cedar Mountain is described, with regular stops 

I i< >od and encampment. The emphasis in this section of the epic is on preparing 

pe< ia] evening ritual which allows Gilgamesh to receive five oracular dreams; 

h was a nightmare, filled with distressing images causing Gilgamesh to fear that 

mission will fail. Enkidu, however, cleverly interprets each dream as reflecting a 

mvr outcome for Gilgamesh (EOG 30-7). This doubtless reflects actual practices 

■ impaigns. Oracular dreams were widely regarded as authentic communications 

M the gods throughout the Ancient Near East. As such, the dreams of the 

i ii i n a i } der of an expedition were particularly important. Such dreams always needed 

aonal dream interpreters to explain their meaning, and a clever interpreter 

I nkidti could make almost any omen or dream seem to favor his rulers plans. 30 

I to the campaign, and in battle, Gilgamesh and Enkidu encourage each other. 

1 "ui shout resound like a kettle drum, let the stiffness leave your arms, the 

mors your knees," Gilgamesh proclaims, encouraging his friend on to battle. 

shall go on together, let your thoughts dwell on combat; let him who goes 

M he on guard for himself, and bring his comrade to safety" (EOG 38-9). When 

Itf.mieshs courage fails him at the sight of the terrifying monster Humbaba, 

kin berates him: "why my friend, do you speak like a weakling? With your 

words von make me despondent.... Don't draw back, don't make a 

it! Make youi blow mighty!" (EOG 41). 

\ hi heron ( irccc e, one of the principle goals of the warrior is to garner fame 

l,tl( ' ( hli'.amesh de< ides to light I lumbaba in order to "establish for ever a 


fame that endures, how Gilgamesh slew ferocious Humbaba!" (EOG 43). Details 
of the battle itself are sparse. Gilgamesh and Enkidu fight hand to hand with dag- 
ger and axe; no missile weapons are mentioned (EOG 39, 44-5, 70). As with a 
Homeric duel, the battle begins with challenges and taunts; Humbaba boasts, " 
will slit the throat and gullet of Gilgamesh, I will feed his flesh to the locust bird, 
ravening eagle and vulture" (EOG 41). Again paralleling Homeric literature, 
humans can also challenge and threaten the gods. Later in the epic, Enkidu 
threatens the goddess Ishtar that he will "drape your arms in your guts" (EOG 52) 
When, with the help of great winds sent by the god Shamash, they finally subdue 
Humbaba, the monster pleads for his life (EOG 43). When Gilgamesh refuses to 
relent, Humbaba curses them: "May the pair of them not grow old, besides Gil 
gamesh his friend, none shall bury Enkidu", after which Gilgamesh slits his throat 
while Enkidu cuts out his lungs (EOG 44). Thereafter they plunder the cedai 
forest - Humbaba's kingdom - and take the timber back to be made into a 
monumental door for the temple of Enlil, while Gilgamesh carries the head ol 
Humbaba home in triumph (EOG 47), where he purifies himself and washes his 
weapons (EOG 48). 



War-carts and chariots 

>ng the many military innovations in the Bronze Age Near East, two would 
m impact on warfare for thousands of years: the enlistment of animals into 

ii \ service, and the creation of machines to facilitate war-making. The crucial 

played by animals in warfare has declined only in the twentieth century CE. 

I ii lies, on the other hand, are playing an increasingly dramatic role in warfare; 
would argue that we may be on the verge of seeing machines become more 
rtant than men in determining the outcome of war. All of this began in 
m,i with the donkey and the wheel. 

Animals and warfare (MK 156-65) 

ol the most important and long-lasting Neolithic military innovations was the 

i animals in warfare (CAM 36-7). There were five ways in which animals 

tally became employed in the ancient Near East to supplement human war 

i for guarding humans, and supplementing their sense of smell and hearing 

.is a mobile source of food (goats, sheep, cattle); transporting food and 

merit as pack animals (donkeys, mules, horses, camels); pulling wheeled 

ii< Its (donkeys, onager-donkey hybrids, mules, horses, oxen), and for riding 

ys, mules, horses, camels). 
I he oldest military animal partner of humans was the dog, which has been 
ticated in the Near East since at least the tenth millennium. Dogs were 
im.iIK used for hunting and protection, a function they continued in the 
!u it v ( ontext. Watchdogs appeared with paramilitary functions protecting cities, 
roves .ind camps (EA 2:166-7; EAE 1:229-31; AEMK 82-4). They occasion- 
al c ompanied soldiers into combat: "the frenzied dogs were wagging tails 
U -if i hi enemy, [as if asking] nave you killed a victim?' and were drooling slaver 
: ii forepaws" (HTO 245; FI §723; AM §64). Although there are some 
1 1 ol tamed lions or cheetahs, these were probably rare, and were used 
foi court spectacle than for day-to-day protection (EAE 1:513-16). 
I hi next use ol animals in warfare was as a source of food. With the beginnings 
ii domestic ation ol animals in the Neolithic period, humans were able to shift 
n liuntini', to henliup;, creatinu; a more reliable and controllable food source. 

I "' 


Animals had a significant advantage over other possible military food sources sucli 
as grain or fruit, in that animals could move themselves along with the army, ratlin 
than requiring a man, pack animal or vehicle to carry them. On the other hand, n 
arid regions animals competed with humans for water, required supervision ai>J 
protection, and, depending on the gait and speed of an animal, could slow an arim 
down. In the ancient Near East goats, sheep, and cattle were the main mobile fo< >< I 
sources which accompanied armies on campaign; on the other hand, donkey 
mules, horses, and camels, though primarily draft and pack animals, were also 
eaten when necessary. 

The most significant military use of animals in the Chalcolithic and Eark 
Bronze Age was the pack animal. The donkey, in particular, was domesticated and 
used to carry burdens in all aspects of Near Eastern life: domestic, agricultural, 
mercantile, and military. Throughout the Early and Middle Bronze ages, th< 
donkey (or donkey-onager hybrid) was the primary means of land transportation 
(EA 2:255-6; EAE 1:478-9; AW 1:166-7). The military use of the donkey pet 
mitted armies to stay in the field longer, to campaign over greater distances, and to 
have extended marches in desert terrain (AEE 1:25-6). On the other hand 
although we know donkeys were ridden, there is no evidence of donkeys being 
extensively ridden in combat situations. 

The fourth possible use of animals in ancient Near Eastern warfare was as dr.ilt 
animals to pull wheeled vehicles. In the late fourth millennium (c. 3300-2800; 
kings in Mesopotamia were conveyed in palanquins (FI §711) or on throne 
dragged on wheel-less sledges by bovines (FI §10; WV §2); while the sledge was 
the ceremonial precursor to the chariot, it obviously had little military potential 
The wheel seems to have developed from modifications made to log rollers lor 
sledges. It is possible that wheeled vehicles appear in Mesopotamia as early as the 
thirty-second century though the ambiguous depiction in our evidence may show 
a sledge on rollers rather than true wheels (WV 13, §1). In addition to carrying 
loads, the earliest archaic vehicles were used for the ritual transport of images ol 
the gods. Indeed, in Mesopotamian mythology the gods are frequently described 
as riding in wheeled vehicles. 1 Kings were also conveyed on vehicles in ceremonial 
processions. There is evidence that wheeled vehicles were extensively used for tin- 
transportation of goods, supplementing pack animals and boats (EA 1:433—4); 
Hammurabi's law code {c. 1760} includes laws concerning renting wagons, di i 
vers, and oxen (ANET 177). During the Bronze Age the use of equids to pull 
wheeled vehicles in battle was their most important military role. 

By about 2700, wheeled vehicles begin to be used in warfare in the form ol 
war-carts which will be discussed in detail below. 2 Militarily, wheeled vehicles 
were probably used to carry supplies on campaign, and, along with boats and pack 
animals, remained the primary means of transporting supplies and military equip 
ment throughout the Near East. Despite the fact that the Egyptians had ample 
trade relations with Syria, where war-carts and wheeled vehicles were known 
during the Early Bronze Age, there is no evidence ol the extensive use of wheeled 
vehicles in Egypt before the New Kingdom [attei I * '>; ■ , || M \ci A thousand 



i after the first appearance of the wheel in Mesopotamia. 3 Presumably the fact 

it nearly all of inhabited Egypt is within a few miles of the Nile rendered the use 

\ heeled vehicles irrelevant for any type of long-distance travel, which could be 

implished more efficiently and quickly by boat. Furthermore, the existence of 

■ Mierous irrigation canals and ditches in the fertile river valleys of Egypt and 

i >potamia complicated travel by wheeled vehicles. In this context it must be 

Biphasized that early wheeled vehicles were not necessarily superior in either 

ted or carrying capacity to simple pack animals or boats, and the mere knowl- 

;c of the existence of wheeled vehicles did not necessarily constitute a com- 

. ; reason for their widespread use or adaptation for transportation. 4 The 

►'\ptians adopted the widespread use of wheeled vehicles only at the very end of 

Middle Bronze Age in the seventeenth century, probably in response to the 

i< uluction of the war-chariot by the Hyksos. 5 

I he final military use of animals was combat riding. The precise date and place 

the origin of equid 6 riding is still somewhat controversial, due to the limita- 

u. of evidence and ambiguities of interpretation. It seems to have first occurred 

the Eurasian steppe in the third millennium, although some scholars argue that 

nay have begun as early as the early fourth millennium. 7 Given human nature, it 

ins likely that informal riding was spontaneous and simultaneous with the first 

lomestication of equids; but this is something quite different from developing an 

ntire culture of horse-riding. Furthermore, it must be emphasized that domes- 

ition of equids does not necessarily imply riding, nor does riding necessarily 

imply military equestrianism. Nor does military equestrianism necessarily imply 

fighting from horseback, since horses can be ridden by mounted infantry, scouts, 

I messengers, and riders can dismount to fight. 

1 1 1 the Near East, the donkey was probably domesticated no later than the late 

• 'in th millennium, and is widely used as a pack and draft animal until the present 

y. C )nagers were probably not domesticated, as they tend to be intractable (EEH 

17a). Onager-donkey hybrids, however, were widely used and highly prized in 

I ale Early Bronze Age; the kunga onager-donkey hybrid could cost forty times 

I much as an ordinary donkey (EEH 117a). The first evidence for the domes- 

li iied horse appears in Mesopotamia by the late third millennium (EEH 117b). 

I quid riding is first documented from the royal tombs of Ur {2550-2400}, where 

. ylinder seal shows a man riding an animal, possibly with a weapon in his hand 

r !U 65). More clear evidence comes from the twenty-third (FI §685) and 

tity first centuries. 8 

For our purpose, however, the crucial question is not the appearance of equid 

iding, but of equid riding in combat. There is some evidence of early horse riding 

ombat. An Akkadian seal {23C} shows a man riding an equid holding what 

nuld be a javelin (EEH 118). Another scene shows an equid rider in a combat 

I trampling a fallen man (EEH 118). A Canaanite ruler is shown riding an 

equid while holding an axe during the reign of Amenemhet III {1843-1797} (IS 

\'M However, these scenes may depict riding an animal to battle rather than in 

kittle I he lightest interpretations ol the evidence point to the beginning of the 


widespread use of mounted warriors in the Near East probably occurring in the 
early Iron Age, perhaps around the tenth or ninth centuries. 9 Although horses or 
donkeys may have been ridden on campaign, or used by scouts or messengers, we 
have no evidence for widespread combat equestrianism in the Early or Middle 
Bronze ages in the Near East. Either as draft animals for vehicles, or mounts, the 
intimate union of man and equids in war has been one of the most momentous in 
military history, continuing for at least 4500 years, and fading only within living 
memory. 10 

Two other animals with potential use in military contexts were also known in 
the ancient Near East, the camel and the elephant. Dromedary (one-humped) 
camels were indigenous to Arabia, while the Bactrian (two-humped) camel 
inhabited Iran and Central Asia; camels were introduced into Egypt and North 
Africa only during Classical times. Camels were probably domesticated by the late- 
third millennium; an eighteenth-century Syrian cylinder seal depicts men riding a 
Bactrian camel (FI §738), However, the camel did not have an appreciable military 
impact until the Late Bronze Age. 11 Elephants were also widespread in North 
Africa and Syria, where they were famously hunted by Thutmose III {1504- 
1452}, who is said to have hunted 120 elephants in the Orontes valley in Syria 
(ANET 241a); there is no evidence of the use of elephants in combat in the Near 
East, however, until Classical times (EAE 1:467). 

Sumerian war-carts {2700-2000} 12 

The evidence for the use of the Sumerian war-cart, though striking, is rathe i 
sparse. We have three types of evidence: archaeological, artistic, and textual 
The remains of war-carts were discovered from burials at Kish, Ur, and Susa 
(WV 16; RTU 21-5, 32-8); these were found in a highly decayed state, bin 
enough was preserved both to confirm and to elucidate the war-cart depicted in 
artistic sources. 13 

Early Dynastic four-wheeled war-carts {2700-2300} 

The military use of wheeled vehicles first occurred in southern Mesopotamia in 
the twenty-seventh century, or perhaps somewhat earlier. Although there was 
undoubtedly a period of experimentation and development of both wheeled 
vehicles and their military potential, in our surviving sources the war-cart appear-, 
fully developed by no later than the middle of the Early Bronze Age in Sumer. I 
will here only review the artistic sources, leaving a discussion of the military use ol 
the war-cart for later. The following are the major artistic sources for Earlx 
Dynastic four-wheeled war-carts. 14 

1 Cylinder seal on a pot from Urak, Sumer {ED, 2000 2300 J (Fl 24i, p. 159, 
FI §499). A four-wheeled war-cart led by one man. i.iiivini r , a seated man 
with axe; the cart's wheels are grooved foi hctu-i n.u (ton 

I P 





Early and Middle Bronze Age war-carts and chariots (drawings by Michael Lyon) 

(a) Sumerian four-wheeled war-carts from the "Standard of Ur", tomb of king 
Ur-Pabilsag {c. 2550} (British Museum 121201); see AFC 98-9. 

(h) Akkadian war-cart trampling enemies; cylinder seal from Nagar (Tell Brak, 
Syria) {c 2250}; see EEH 116 §2. 

(( ) Neo-Sumerian two-wheeled war-cart, relief from Ur {26C} (University of 
Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, 17086); see AFC 
72 §31. 

(il) Warrior in two-wheeled chariot trampling enemy; cylinder seal from Baby- 
lon ! 1779] (British Musueni 16815a); see WV §31. 

Warnoi (in seale armor?) shooting a bow from a two-wheeled chariot; 
i vtinJri seal (mill Syria ] IX 17C|; see WV §36. 


2 Vase painting from Khafajah {ED II, 2650-2550} (AW 1:128). A four 
wheeled war-cart with studded wheel rims, carrying two men and perhaps 
four javelins in a side quiver-box. 

3 "Standard of Ur" {ED IIIA, 2550-2400} (cover art; Figure 4a, p. 133; pp. 49 
50; AFC 98-9; FA 84; AW 1:132-3; SDA 146-7; WV §3; AM §72, §x-xi) 
Along with the Stele of Vultures, the Standard of Ur is our most important 
war-cart scene. Five war-carts are depicted being drawn by long-eared equiti 
(donkeys or donkey-onager hybrids) with barding for the animals. All tin 
war-carts have javelin quiver-boxes; half the men hold axes in their hands, halt 
are throwing or thrusting javelins. Judging from the gait of the equids, the 
war-cart on the top panel is being walked in a procession, as is one war-cart 
on the bottom panel; the other three, with long strides for the animals, seem 
to be running, while trampling the dead bodies of enemies. 

4 "Stele of Vultures" of Eannatum of Lagash (from Telloh) {ED IIIA, c. 2440 ; 
(FA 82; AFC 190-1; AW 1:135; SDA 134-7; AM §66-9). The wheels an 
missing; this could be a four or two-wheeled vehicle. Most of the war-cart i 
missing, but the remaining fragment shows a war-cart with a large javelin 
quiver and the king holding a javelin (or thrusting spear?) and what appears to be 
a proto-sickle-sword. This image is discussed in detail on pp. 55-9, Figure 1, p. 55 

5 Inlaid shell panel from Mari {ED III, 2550-2300} (AFC 159). A standard 
Sumerian four-wheeled war-cart with javelins in a front quiver-box, accoin 
panied by a spear- armed foot soldier; the war-cart is trampling a corps > 
Overall, the composition is similar to the that depicted on the Standard of I ' i 

6 Inlaid shell panel from Mari {ED III, 2550-2300} (AW 1:139). Fragmentary 
probably four-wheeled, but possible only two-wheeled war-cart. 

7 Cylinder seal from Syria (Mari?) {ED III?, 2550-2300} (FI §722). A standard 
Sumerian four-wheeled vehicle with one rider, drawn by four equids and 
followed by a soldier with a javelin. 

8 Cylinder seal from Kish {ED III, 2500-2350} (FI §724; ELH pi. 1). Seated 
figure on four-wheeled war-cart being led by another man; the war-cart 
javelins in a front quiver-box and is trampling a fallen enemy. 

Early Dynastic {2700-2300} two-wheeled war-carts 15 

As far as we can tell, four-wheeled and two-wheeled war-carts appear rough h 
simultaneously in Sumer. Both utilize essentially the same technology, and .in 
both shown in similar military situations. The four-wheeled war-cart, discussed 
above, appears more frequently and in more intense military contexts than an 
shown in any of the representations of the two-wheeled version. The relativi 
military merits of both will be discussed on pp. 137-41. The major artistic souk i 
for Sumerian two- wheeled war-carts include: 

9 Cylinder seal from Sumer {ED, 2900-2300} (FI §723; AM §64). Royal figui 
armed with axe entering a two- wheeled war-cart, accompanied by a dog an 
three men, two armed with axes anil one with a spcai 

I H 


I opper model from Tell Agrab {ED II, 2650-2550} (AW 1:39, 129; SDA 
I S2-3; WV §7; AM §49). Drawn by four horses, studded block wheels; there 
IS no apparent military context. 

Votive plaque from Ur {ED II; 2650-2550} (Figure 4c, p. 133; AFC 72; AW 
I I 30; AAM §43; WV §8). The driver is standing on the ground behind the 
war-cart, holding the reins, and carrying a javelin; there are other javelins in 
the box-quiver on the war-cart. The war-cart seems to be draped with a 
i Opard skin. It is pulled by two (possibly four) equids which are not protected 
barding. It is probably part of a ceremonial scene similar to that depicted in 
the votive plaque from Khafajah described below. 

i .live plaque from Khafajah {ED II?, 2650-2550} (AAM §42; AM §45; SDA 
i ) ). The overall layout of this scene closely parallels the votive plaque from 
I i described above; indeed each complements the gaps in the other. A festival 

m process in which the third and lowest panel shows a war-cart drawn by 
bur equids, preceded by a man with a javelin or short thrusting spear. 

1 1 hough the parallel scenes depicted in the Ur and Khafajah plaques are 

remonial rather than military, these two-wheeled war-carts clearly have a 
n utial purpose, with a javelin quiver-box, and both the driver and accom- 
I niying foot soldier armed with javelins. 

The Sumerian war-cart 16 

the archaeological and artistic evidence outlined above, we can obtain a 
understanding of the Sumerian war-cart. The classic Sumerian war-cart 
'/f| (2600-2300} was essentially a wagon adapted for military use. The four- 
■ pled version seems to have preceded the two-wheeled version, but by the time 
n idespread military use both the two- and four-wheeled versions were used 
ttie. The major limitation of the four-wheeler was weight; the Sumerian war- 
had ,i heavy wooden frame with four solid disk wheels. The cart itself was 
mil narrow, allowing only one person abreast, the driver generally in front 
he warrior behind. The cart was surrounded by a high front and lower side 
I lot protection and for the driver and rider to hold to stabilize themselves. A 
mid major limitation on the four-wheeler was that the front wheels could not 
'i independent of the vehicle as a whole, giving it a very wide turning radius. 
In nigh the royal-cart was originally pulled by oxen, which continued in use for 
nli in. il and commercial carts, in military settings the war-cart was always 
il by equids - since bovines could move at only a few miles an hour, a war- 
[Milled by oxen would be slower than a man on foot (CG 77). 
nt e < >ui sources are generally vague in both naming and depicting equids, it is 
ii tun possible to determine with certainty what specific species of equid was 
I «S, 1 1 3). I )onkeys were the most common equid in Mesopotamia. 
i U asses) were probably not used because they are difficult to domes- 
iml tontml; 1 1 it donkey onager hybrid was common with war-carts, being 

I I 



larger and stronger than the donkey, but more docile and manageable than the 
onager. The horse was introduced into Mesopotamia in the late third millennium; 
the horse or mule (horse-donkey hybrid) was probably adopted for pulling war- 
carts by the late Early Bronze Age (ELH 197—8). It must be emphasized that, 
although the Bronze Age horse was larger, stronger and faster than the donkey ii 
was still substantially smaller than modern horses; based on evidence from bones 
we can estimate that ancient horses ranged from 12-14 hands high at the shoulder 
(130—150 cm; one hand = eleven centimeters), while the modern Western riding 
horse is 15—17 hands (160—185 cm). Due to the weight of the war-cart and the 
limited size and strength of the draft animals, the speed of the Sumerian war-carl 
was rather slow. Experimentation with modern reconstructions have demonstrated 
that its speed ranged from 10 to 12 miles per hour, or five to six minutes per mile 
(WV 33), slower than the top speed of an unarmed fast man, but probably some 
what faster than the average man in a combat situation. 

Development of the Sumerian war-cart 

The evidence, though inadequate, allows the following hypothetical reconstriu 
tion of the development of the Sumerian war-cart. The first war-carts seem to 
have developed directly from ritual vehicles used for conveying divine images oi 
kings in ceremonial processions, initially drawn by oxen rather than equids. Ai 
some point, probably in the twenty-seventh century, kings began to ride then 
ceremonial war-carts to the battlefield rather than simply in ceremonial proces 
sions for civic and religious purposes. Carts were also made to carry statues of tin- 
gods in ritual processions, and were dedicated to the temples (PI 100). Initially tin 
king probably had the only war-cart on the battlefield. Presumably he rode his 
war-cart to the battlefield, dismounted and fought, and then rode again after the 
battle. For example, in the Stele of Vultures {c. 2440}, Eannatum of Lagash ] 
2455-2425} is shown in the lower panel in the only war-cart depicted in thi 
entire battle scene (although others might have existed in the large damaged poi 
tion of the stele). In the upper register, on the other hand, Eanatum is shown 
fighting on foot (item 4, pp. 131—3). Military leaders were undoubtedly quick K 
able to recognize the military potential in the royal war-cart. The king could mo\ 
among his own troops more quickly, giving orders and receiving reports. A fleeing 
enemy could also be pursued more quickly by war-cart. At some point the kin 
began to ride the war-cart during the battle, and fight from it. In due course, th< 
number of war-carts on a battlefield increased, either because members of the ro\ .il 
family and other nobles wanted to share in the high status of riding war-carts, o 
because military leaders recognized that, by increasing the number of war-can 
an army could potentially gain a tactical advantage over an enemy. Some spe< iti 
changes in the design of the cart may have had military impetus. Increasing Hi 
height of the side and front panel would afford greater protection and stabilil 
to the rider. Sheep skins, strips of leather, or other types nl [urding, were liunj», «<i 
the chests of the equids for their protection (item • | I '>4; MM 32), wltili 

I K, 

din quiver-box and probably other weapon containers were added to increase 
ammunition supply and make it more readily accessible (item 3 above) The 
I iod roughly from 2600 to 2300 was the classic age of the Sumerian war-cart, as 
i tacularly represented in the military art of the Standard of Ur (item 3) and the 
le of Vultures (item 4), described above. By at least the twenty-fifth century this 
Imology had spread up the Euphrates to Mari and south-eastern Syria (items 

The Sumerian war-cart in battle 

archaeological and artistic evidence can be supplemented by a few texts giving 

i basic understanding of the military use of the Sumerian war-cart. The weap- 

<>i the warrior of the Sumerian war-cart were the javelin and the axe - the 

Bldard weapons of the ordinary Sumerian warrior. Javelin quiver-boxes are 

most always found on the war-carts; warriors are shown wielding both javelins 

i axes from within the war-cart (item 1). There is no indication that the bow 

used. The war-carts are almost always accompanied by foot soldiers, 

loubtedly to protect the war-cart from attacks by enemy infantry. The equids 

ometimes shown being led by a man (item 1), generally in a procession. The 

i arts are often preceded by an armed man (items 3, 8, 11-12), or followed by 

m (items 1 and 7) or a group of men (items 4 and 9) armed with javelins and/ 


\n important question posed by the artistic evidence is, why did the Sumerians 

both four-wheeled and two-wheeled war-carts? The four-wheeler has advan- 

|n stability and having room for a driver allowing the warrior to give his full 

ntion to combat. Psychologically, the larger war-cart was probably more ter- 

mg to the enemy The two-wheeler, on the other hand, would have the 

mtage of speed, since it was lighter, and maneuverability, since the four- 

cclcr war-cart lacked a pivoting front axle and therefore had a wide turning 

Since the Sumerians used the javelin rather than the bow - which requires 

hands to shoot - as the major missile weapon from war-carts, a single warrior 

Id drive a two-wheeler holding the reins in his left hand and a javelin or axe in 

nghl hand, as several drivers are depicted. Overall, it seems that the two- 

i fled war-cart proved to be the most effective in battle, for, as we will see on 

I '. the four-wheeled war-cart disappeared entirely from the battlefield by the 

y Middle Bronze Age. 

Most of the war-cart scenes in Sumerian martial art are rather static. There are only 

di'P" ' 'ons of the Sumerian war-cart in which we get a sense of the actual use in 

Ifae Standard of Ur (kern 3; cover art, Figure 5a, p. 133) and Stele of the Vultures 

ll. both dating to the twenty-fifth century The Standard of Ur shows five 

•iris. Structurally they are all almost exactly the same: four disk-wheels, a 

il panel between chest and neck height, and side panels about knee or thigh 

i In .i sense, ihe war carl can be seen as ;, mobile shield whose high front panels 

•"'"I P'otecuon «. the driver and warrior from enemy missiles. All are pulled 

I • 



by four long-eared, long-tailed equids which have strips of sheep-skin or leathei 
barding covering their necks and chests to protect them from enemy missiles. Tin 
war-carts are shown in two panels. The first shows a victory procession, with ;i 
single war-cart to the rear. It does not have a visible javelin-quiver, but the uppei 
part of the top register is partly missing, so this may simply be lost. The driver, axe in 
hand, stands on the ground holding the reins; the equids are depicted with walking 
gait (all four legs visible at angles). The king - the presumed rider of the war-cart 
stands at the head of three soldiers armed with spear and axe, and receives pris 
oners of war from other soldiers in an after-battle triumph ritual. The other foui 
war-carts are shown in the bottom register in the midst of battle, all with javelin 
quivers. The equids on three of the war-carts are shown in full gallop gait, tram 
pling the corpses of fallen enemies. The fourth war-cart, at the rear, is shown with 
equids walking and not trampling enemies. Each war-cart has two riders, a driver 
in the front and a warrior standing on the very edge at the rear. They all ha\ ■ 
sheep-skin kilts and sheep-skins flung over their left shoulders for protection iu 
their upper torso; they also have either leather or metal helmets with a strap undci 
the chin. Of the drivers, one holds an axe on his right: shoulder (though the hea. 
of the axe is missing), holding the reins in his left hand, just like the driver in 1 1 1 • 
upper panel; the image of one of the drivers is damaged and it can't be seen for 
certain what he is doing with his right hand. The other two drivers hold sonn 
thing in their right hands, it but it is uncertain what — possibly axes or a javelins 

Several things seem clear from the Standard of Ur. Both driver and warrioi 
were expected to fight, since the drivers are also shown armed with axes. Tin 
javelins were thrown, since the javelin quiver-box attached to the war-cart con 
tains multiple weapons. Axes were considered useful weapons for war-carts, whi 
ther to fight off infantry that might attack the war-cart, or to use whi • 
dismounted. Sumerians recognized that the greatest vulnerability of the war-< ai 
was the equids. Since the easiest way to stop a war-cart was to kill or disable 
single equid, they were given some type of protection on their chests. War-carl 
could, move across the battlefield at a gallop and pursue fleeing enemies. 

Unfortunately, there are number of ambiguities in the Standard of Ur whi< h 
make a complete interpretation impossible. First, is the scene meant to depict foul 
war-carts simultaneously, or one cart at different moments in a cartoon-like 
sequence? It probably shows four different war-carts, since each warrior has a dii 
ferent weapon. Second, does it represent a line of war-carts following one anothi i 
or a group of war-carts side-by-side? Third, are they charging forrned-up enenr. 
ranks, or chasing and overwhelming already defeated and fleeing enemies? In othi 
words, were the war-carts used to break formed- up enemy ranks, or simply t 
chase down a fleeing enemy whose ranks were already broken? The Standard o 
Ur seems to indicate the latter, since all the enemies have their backs to th< 
advancing war-carts; no one is making any serious resistance. Are they trampling 
the enemies, or riding around and beside them? In later depictions of war-can 
riding over a prostrate enemy becomes a stylized depiction of victory in ban I 
Unfortunately, the evidence is insufficient to answri must <>l these questions !<• 

i but it must be remembered that, whatever the artist of the Standard of Ur 
ying to depict in this particular instance, it does not demonstrate that this 

I" icfore the only way the war-cart could have been used by the Sumerians. It 
possible that the Sumerians both fought from the war-cart and dismounted 
> I he war-carts could have been marshaled in line or rank depending on 
ti< aJ circumstances. They may have on some occasions attacked formed-up 
»i enemy, and on other occasions chased down fleeing enemies. There is no 
i" assume the Sumerians were incapable of tactical flexibility in their use of 

mis. It is also important to emphasize that Sumerian art almost invariably 
not actual battle, but victory after battle. The Standard of Ur may thus not 
ig to tell us how war-carts were used to win a battle, but how they were 

I i the battle was already won. 
Stele of Vultures {c. 2440} (item 4; Figure 1, p. 55) shows king Eanatum 

ptfc charging into battle on his war-cart, followed by a large body of infantry 

I with spears and axes. The depiction may be intended as symbolic rather 

M deal - the king is always said to lead his army into battle even if, in reality, 

II the rear of the army. But it may also represent a real tactic of the war- 

preceding the infantry into battle. The king stands at the front of the war- 

lolding a long spear overhead in his left hand and what appears to be a proto- 

sword (or perhaps a club or a scepter, see pp. 66-71) in his right hand. The 

ft is also equipped with a quiver-box with half a dozen javelins, as well as a 

The depiction of a spear in Eanatum's hand is unique in Sumerian 

all other war-cart warriors hold javelins. The spear is held overhand in 

I hand, so far to the rear of the shaft that it would seem to be unbalanced. 

kgh the head of the weapon is lost and we cannot tell the length of the spear, 

II ty not a javelin. A fragment of a parallel scene from the same stele shows 
Oi the largely lost fourth panel of the Stele of the Vultures. 17 There, the 

I i igment at the far left of the fourth panel shows the hand of a man grasping 
d of the long lance in the very same unbalanced way Eanatum holds the 
ill the second panel. In the fourth panel the length of the entire lance is 
R i(h the lance head about to be thrust into the face of the enemy king. This 
di us shows the use of a long thrusting lance from the war-cart rather than 
lin. In the upper register of the stele, Eanatum stands on the ground in 
4 his army, indicating that Sumerian chariot warriors could dismount and 
« m the ground with axe and spear, along with the infantry. Each of the soldiers 
fag Eanatum is similarly double-armed, with thrusting spear in one hand 
! '"I axe in the other. 

• 'i Ik-i odd characteristic of Eanatum's war-cart is that the driver appears to be 
line hrliiml Kanatum. The torso and head of the second figure is missing in a 

• d portion of the stele, and his legs are largely hidden behind the side panel 
w.ii cart. The only indication of a second occupant of the war-cart is the 

""> ."id f ii-hi hand which extends to the side of Eanatum's hip, and appears to 
"'Win)- an axe I he reins of tin- (art rest on the top of the front panel, but then 
" ' •"»•"""' *-K--iH> is not holding them, since he has a weapon in each 

1 >8 




hand. Unless this scene is composed with unrealistic artistic license, I suspect thai 
the reins go behind Eanatum to his left side (and hence are invisible in the scene) 
and are held in the left hand of the nearly obscured man to the rear of Eanatum 
The Standard of Ur shows the king standing in front of the war-cart while his 
driver stands on the ground holding the reins in his left hand and an axe in In 
right, just like the largely defaced driver of Eanatum's war-cart seems to be doini' 
I suspect that if each man stood on opposite sides of the war-cart it would not b< 
impossible for the man at the rear to drive, though it does seem quite awkward 
On the other hand, since the equids and everything to the front of Eanatum arc 
missing because of damage to the stele, it may be that there was originally a man 
leading the war-cart in front of the equids. 

Another important characteristic of Sumerian war-carts depicted in art is 1 1 1 
development of the theme of the war-cart trampling the enemy as a symbol o( 
victory in battle. It appears most strikingly in the Standard of Ur (item 3). A pi« 
cisely analogous scene, though fragmentary, occurs at Mari (item 5), and in I 
cylinder seal from Kish (item 8). It may also possibly have been shown in the St t I 
of Vultures prior to damage; the area under the war-cart is now missing, but thi 
infantry in the register above the war-cart are trampling enemy corpses under thru 
feet (item 4). This issue will be discussed more fully on p. 150. 

These artistic representations of war-cart battle can be supplemented by ex « 
sional references to war-carts in Sumerian royal inscriptions. The most importai 
comes from an inscription describing a battle in the agricultural Ugiga-fn I 
between king Enmetena of Lagash {c. 2400} and Urluma of Umma, in win 
Enmetena "confronted the retreating Urluma, ruler of Umma, at the base of tin 
Lumagirnunta- canal, and [Urluma] abandoned his sixty teams of asses there, am 
left the bones of their personnel [of the war-carts] strewn over the plain" (PI i 
77). This text describes a battle occurring on a flat open agricultural field, ideal lei 
war-carts; unfortunately, the details of the actual battle were not recorded. I I 
result, however, is clear: Enmetena defeated the army of Umma, which fled bcf< 
him until they reached a canal which their war-carts could not cross. The wan ioi 
abandoned their war-carts and tried to flee on foot, but many were run do 
either by pursuing war-carts or by infantry. The text also provides anotln i 
important detail - that king Urluma had "sixty teams of asses", or, in other word 
60 war-carts. We cannot be sure that some of the war-carts did not escape, s< i I 
should be considered the minimum number in Urluma s army. None the lesi 
shows that an average Sumerian city-state could probably muster 50-80 war i i 
for battle. At this point they were no longer merely ceremonial vehicles or 1 1 1 
conveyances, but were an important combat component in the Sumerian arn 
When Enmetena wished to emphasize the magnitude of his victory, he underlin 
the capture of 60 war-carts, rather than the total number of enemy dead or cap- 

Enmetena of Lagash {c. 2400} also built a war cart named "Ningrsifs < h.ti 
that heaps up [burial mounds of dead enemies in| deleaied foreign lands" (PI 
cf. 100); it is obviously a divine war-carl loi teinpli utiul inn its name show 

BUlitary functio, The war _ cart brlngs vlctory m batde> resuking m 
| up burial moi jds of the cor pses of the defeated enemies - a standard 
"" meta ph° r for Military victory depicted in the Stele of Vultures (item 4; 
| ). 55) . Althou (l to t h e mo dern mind the ceremonial aspects of the war- 
1 "" etlmes seen to mply a lack of serious application to real combat, to the 
'"" quasi-sa.,. ec j qualities of a war-cart enhanced rather then detracted 

military value. T, e fact t hat a war-cart was dedicated to a god, carried a 
image of a god i, re ligi OU s rituals, was kept in a temple treasury, and was 
n mutation of the celestial vehicles used by the gods, gave the war-cart a 
•us duality, making more effecdve by psycho]o g ically mcreas ing the fear of 
ho faced it in battl.. To the mnd of the Sumerian warrior, the war-cart was 
;low-movmg woo, en box on heavy wheek pulkd by asses as ofen descnbed 

'" Scholars; rath V, it was a chariot of the gods, representing and convey- 
nu- power to the k, tde fie]d. It was perhaps viewed by the Sumerians more 
biblical Ark of tb. Covenant. Indeed, against an ancient enemy, the psy- 
' " n P act of the S nnerian war-cart - its size, weight, speed, heroic warrior 
me aura - was prc iably as signl f lcant as lts actual notary impact. 
eremomal aspec of the war-cart and chariot as the proper vehicle for 
Ignity is emphasize in one of the much later Mari texts {1760s} Here 
Um is advised abo, t proper riding decomm: 

lord should prese: ve his royaJ dlgnity Even though yQu are ^ king rf ^ 
«iad] Haneans, y Su are also the king of the Akkadians. Thus my lord 
■mIJ not ride hors^ but a charlot with mules {kudanu)y and maintaln the 

tlge ofhis soverev nty (ARM 676; EEH 120b; MR 165) 

Ot as a symbol a f kingship was as significant as its practical military 

I'M! IO 

•us m war. 

U " CartS and th< ir equid teams seem to have been housed in special 
Uru inimgma of L lgash describes bmldlng « a cha riot-house for [the war- 
Imgirsu, a building whose awesome sp l e ndor overwhelms all the lands" (PI 
I k Bau, ruler of Lagash> bmlt the « house of the donkey . sta]lions » (E3/ 
were probabjy building complexes for constructing, repairing, and 
I carts and their equipment, and for the care and breeding of their equid 

War-carts in th* Akkadian and Neo-Sumerian periods 


recently it has genei lllv hccn thought that the Akkadians essentiaUy aban- 
thc use ol the for~ 

■ I th 

M wheeled war-cart in battle. Crouwel and Littauer sum- 
ins position: the 'Vv.dcnce for [the] use [of war-carts] in warfare, for 
' ,hrvWtTC * 4 lr - 11 lv Unsuitable, lades rapidly after the middle of the fthirdl 
1,1111 ( 1 ■- A >: V|.|- \v \ ii . |, ,, , i- , , ,- , . n 

vv\ I I >i Recently published cylinder seals from 

I }<> 



ancient Nagar (Tell Brak; Figure 4b, p. 133; EA 1:355-6) in the Khabur Triangle 
n north-eaftern Syria, however, some new, fairly conclusive evidence thai 
he "e of the war-cart continued unabated dunng the Akkadian period £*» 
Sin {2254-2218} built a large palace at Nagar, which became the major Akkadian 
administrative center in northern Mesopotamia. The discovery of three mjhtar> 
scenes of four-wheeled war-carts on Akkadian-period cylinder seals from Nag 
indicates the ongoing Akkadian use of the four-wheeled war-cart - ^(EE 
116 $1-4) On the other hand, none of the better-known monumental Akkad,, 
martial art depicts the use of the war-cart. For the Akkadian rour-wheeled wa, 
cart in battle we have: 

- Akkadian cylinder seal {c. 2250} (EEH 116 §1). A four-wheeled war-cai 
drawn by eqmds with protective barding on their chests One seated man 
drives the cart, with a man stepping into the war-cart behind, and anothe 
standing on the ground. The war-cart is trampling a corpse, while anot .., 
wounded man on the ground is being dispatched by a warrior armed with , 
dagger or axe, while a vulture eagerly hovers nearby. 

14 Akkadian cylinder seal {c. 2250} (EEH 116 §2; Figure 4b, p. 133). A fou 
wheeled war-cart drawn by equids. The seated driver is foUowedby one man 
stepping into the war-cart from the rear and another standing brandishing 
dJL over his head. The war-cart is trampling a fallen corpse Underneath 
this scene may be four prisoners sitting on the ground with their arm 
pinioned behind their backs. 

15 Akkadian cylinder seal {c. 2250} (EEH 116 §4). A four-wheeled war-cn 
tramples an enemy and is followed by a foot soldier. 

Additionally, there are two non-military Akkadian scenes with similar foul 

wheeled carts: 

16 Cylinder seal {Akkadian, 2220-2159} (AFC §143; WV §13; SDA 189; I 
§725) This mythological scene depicts a god riding in a standard fou! 
wheeled war-cart being drawn by a griffin. The god holds a whip, bu, , 
weapons are apparent, though there may be a javelin m a quiver-box. 

17 Cylinder seal {Akkadian, 2220-2159} (AM §113). God riding in a I 

wheeled war-cart drawn by a griffin, similar to item 16 above. 

For two-wheeled Akkadian war-carts we have: 

18 Akkadian cylinder seal {2334-2193} (WV §17; FI §726). God riding in 
two-wheeled celestial war-cart drawn by a griffin, similar to items 16 and 

Ur III period (2112-2004} there is addition..! evidence foi i 

During the Ur 111 p- 
wheeled war-carts 

i r 


' fragmentary scene from Ur III (AAM §192-3; WV §18). Man riding a two- 
heeled war-cart with grooved disk-wheels; the upper portion is missing, so 
i here is no indication of military use. 

I ragments from the stele of Urnammu {2112-2095} (AFC 445). These are 
too damaged to determine if any military accoutrements are present. 

I Vpiction of two-wheeled war-cart from Tepe Hisar, northern Iran, south- 
Ltf of Caspian Sea {2350-2000} (WV §21; ELH 199). This is a badly com- 
i m >sed scene of a man riding a two wheeled war-cart; there is no clear military 

■ 'Mtext. Some have argued that the partially damaged wheel is spoked; others 

I I "lie that it is a cross-bar wheel (WV 40). This may represent the spread of 
war-cart technology into Iran, or perhaps reflects a transitional form between 
the steppe war-carts of Central Asia and those of the Near East. 

I hus, for the period from 2300—2000, there is an apparent shift in the depiction 

ii cart warfare, with fewer and less dramatic military scenes. None the less, it 

it that carts continued to be used during this period (items 13—15 above). 

this apparent change in our source material reflect a change in actual combat 

s, a change in the way warfare was depicted, or merely the random chance 

ii martial art happens to survive and to have been discovered and published? 

the recent publication of Akkadian-period cylinder seals from Nagar (EEH 

there was no clear example of the depiction of a war-cart in a military context 

M' that period (WV 44-5). Now 7 there are three examples, which should serve 

ti minder that, in ancient archaeology and history, absence of evidence is not 

hi e of absence. Much of what we claim to know about ancient history is often 

i on the rather random preservation and discovery of a fragmentary, obscure, and 

i range of sources. None the less, despite their fixation on war, no Akkadian 

is shown riding in a war-cart in battle in surviving monumental Akkadian art. 

re is additional literary evidence that is generally overlooked in the discus- 

: <il war-carts in the Neo-Sumerian period. We are fortunate to have detailed descriptions of the Sumerian war-cart from Gudea of Lagash {2141— 

11 J , from precisely the period in which it is sometimes claimed that the war- 

snit out of military use. 19 Gudea built a ceremonial war-cart for the god 

en mi, taking special care in the selection and preparation of the materials: 

I he good shepherd Gudea [king of Lagash] . . . broke the seal on his store- 
house [in the city of Girsu], pulled aside the wooden [bolt of the door]. 
( tutle.i checked the wood [for the war-cart] piece by piece, taking great care 
i ii. The mes wood he smoothed and he split the khalub wood, and fitted 
them together to make his blue chariot..., He decorated the chariot with 
and lapis lazuli, with arrows protruding from the quiver like the [shafts] 
oi daylight |from the sun]; he was especially careful with the anhar [mace], the 
"warrior's ann , \... lie harnessed to it [donkey] stallions, the "lions-sum- 
moiu-d foi running". Gudea fashioned for Ningirsu his beloved standard and 
vvmte his |Nmgirsu\| own name on M 

I I \ 


The use of a mace from a war-cart is also mentioned in the epic of Ninurt.i 
(HTO 117). 

A description of the completed war-cart and weapons donated by Gudea to the 
temple of Ningirsu provides a poetical description of the Sumerian war-cart in 

The chariot named "It subdued the mountain" [lands], 

Bearing terror and dread [to the enemy], 

Drawn by the donkey "Merrily-Neighing- Wind" 

Harnessed with the other donkeys. 

The seven-spiked mace, fierce battle mace, 

Weapon unbearable from the North to the South . . . 

The rnittu-mace, a lion-headed weapon of hulalu stone, 

Which does not flee from enemy lands . . . 

Nine banners 

The "warrior's arm" [mace] 

A bow [ CI§ -ban] that roars like a forest of mes- trees, 

Its terrible arrows [ti\ flashing like lightening in battle 

On its quiver [mar] a leopard and lion [were depicted] 

With a serpent flicking its tongue 

The weapons of battle 

The power of kingship . . . 

Gudea, ruler of Lagash, presented to the Temple. 21 

There is one ambiguity in interpreting the meaning of this text; Gudea i 
clearly describing the building of a ceremonial war-cart for use in rituals in tin- 
temple of the god Ningirsu. Does this mean that this war-cart was purely ecu 
monial, or was it taken into battle as well? However that may be, this is clearly .1 
ceremonial uw-cart, and represents our best contemporary description of the 
building, purpose, and conceptualization of the role of war-cart of this period 
The war-cart was the "power of kingship", which brought "terror and dread" 
upon the enemy If the military function of the war-cart had all but disappean 
during the two centuries previous to Gudea, as is sometimes claimed, it is unlikcT 
he would have so dramatically emphasized precisely those obsolete military fun< 
tions in his dedicatory inscription. We should also avoid imposing modern pr< 
conceptions on ancient peoples: if a vehicle is "ceremonial" for a procession to 
temple, it cannot simultaneously have a "practical" function in battle. In actual 11 
to some extent, all ancient battle was ceremonial; indeed, in some ways, the woiM 
of ritual was more "real" for ancient peoples than what we consider today as thi 
world of real events. 

The other striking feature of Gudea's war-cart is the emphasis on the use oi th 
bow and arrow in war-carts, our earliest example of the bow and chariot conihi 
nation which would become standard in the Late Hmn/e Ayy The use of the Imv 
from the chariot in Neo Sumerian limes is .ilso imph< J in tin i pit of Niiiiih 1 

I ! 


u tory over Azag. There Ninurta is said to have mounted a chariot to fight, and to 
have shot his bow in battle (HTO 244); although not explicit, this may imply the 
I tc of a bow from the chariot. This represents a major transition from the Early 
I Hnastic javelin to Neo-Sumerian bow as the war-cart missile weapon, and is a 

v transformation in the development of the "true" war-chariot which occurs in 

he later Middle Bronze Age, as will be discussed on pp. 145-722 

In summary, by the end of the Early Bronze Age the Sumerian war-cart was a 

apon in transition. That the Sumerians retained the two-wheeled war-cart, and 

vcmi experimented with using the bow from it, demonstrates that the war-cart was 

nil considered useful in battle, even if it was not decisive. In the right terrain 

unst the right enemy and used at the proper moment in battle, the war-cart 

•nld create a rnilitary advantage and perhaps win a battle. Thus experimentation 
ontinued in the coming centuries to discover the ideal formula for the building 
md use of the war-cart, leading to the innovation of the trie war-chariot, and the 
rcat chariot revolution of the seventeenth century. 

Middle Bronze Age and the origins of tlu war-chariot 
{2000-1600} 23 

I lie Middle Bronze Age saw the rise of what is often called the true war-chariot, 
apposed to the early Sumerian war-cart. The txansformition from war-cart to 
iii not required a transformation of biological, technological, social, and military 
L< tors to create the ideal vehicle for Late Bronze Age warfare. Once that proper 
ombination of factors had developed, the war-chariot spread rapidly throughout 
Miu h of the Old World, encompassing Central Asia, the Near East, Europe, India, 
1 hina, and North Africa. 

Scholars tend to define the "true" chariot, which would revolutionize warfare 

I the Late Bronze Age, by the following characteristics (CG 74-120; ELH; WV 

I 5, §24-36). The chariot was drawn by horses rather than by other equids, 

flowing faster speed. Lighter construction techniques, two wheels instead of four, 

«d spoked wheels rather than disk wheels, also contributed to decreasing the 

ight and increasing the speed of the chariot. The change from four to two 

• heels allowed greater maneuverability. A shift from the nose ring for controlling 
lie horse to bit and reins, along with improved yoke and harness, created a more 
fficient means both for controlling the horse and for the hcrse to pull the chariot, 

'in boosting maneuverability and speed. The overall impict of new lightweight 

"iisi ruction, improved harness and horse-power, resulted by the seventeenth 

Mirny m vehicles which could attain a maximum speed of thirty miles per hour 

01 short distances, two-and-a-half times the speed of the iarly Bronze Sumerian 

• mi wheeled war-cart (CG 84). To the improved speed of the chariot was added 

use of the composite bow, allowing rapid fire at a distance. The greater pene- 

tting powei of the composite bow with bronze arrowheads made the chariot a 

rapidly moving platform shooting the most powerful nrssile in the ancient 

• HM ' tul ' h llsn lrtl to the adoption of bronze scale armor for chariot warriors, 



and often for their horses. The fact that the bow required two hands to be shot 
meant that chariots were most efficient when they had a battle-team of driver an* i 
archer. This complex and expensive combination of chariot craftsmanship, com 
posite bow-making, horse grooming and training, and metal- working for armor, 
created the need for large and expensive royal workshops and stables to maintain 
the chariots. It probably required half a dozen men - carpenter, bowyer, groom, 
metal-worker, and a servant or two — to maintain a single chariot in combal 
readiness. The building and repairing of chariot wheels is mentioned (L 377) 
along with reference to a courtier named Yashub-Ashar who seems to have been 
in charge of chariot production at Mari (MM 31). 

Chariots were obviously valuable and somewhat rare, since they were given a- 
gifts to vassals and nobles (ARM 5,66, 5,58, 10.113). The relative scarcity of both 
chariots and the skilled craftsmen necessary to build and repair them is emphasized 
in one of the Mari texts, where a nobleman, Ila-salim, requests a new chariot from 
the king Zimri-Lim: 

The king gave me a chariot, but when I went away between the country ami 
the mountains, that chariot broke in the middle, and now as I travel to and fro 
there is not chariot for me to ride. If it please my lord, may my lord give mi 
another chariot, so that I can organize the country until my lord comes. I am 
my lords servant; may my lord not refuse me another chariot. (ARM 5.66 
MK 164) 

This text is interesting at a number of levels. The fact that the chariot broke ii 
the mountains shows the problem of the use of the chariot in the rough terrain 
outside the flat plains. It also appears that this nobleman had the only chariot in In 
city; he had no other vehicle, and didn't seem to be able to borrow one. Fui 
thermore, he had no craftsmen in his employ able to repair the chariot or bin hi 
him a new one. He had to ask for one from the king. The chariot is also not use d 
in a military context, but as a vehicle to assist the nobleman in administering 1 1 1 

Texts mention "harnessed teams" of chariot horses, grooms, and trainers (MK 
161-2; ARM 18.55), indicating an organized stable system for chariot horses. Im 
every pair of horses pulling a chariot, another half a dozen horses would be needed 
in reserve for breeding, training, and replacement for horses that were injun d 
captured or killed. All of this required a state that was wealthy and powerful 
enough to maintain armies with hundreds of chariots. More importantly, 
required the creation of a new military rnind-set focused on the tactical advani.i; 
and hmitations of the chariot. As the experiences of soldiers with new technolo 
gies in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries CE amply demonstrate, it >l 
required several generations to fully develop such tactical expertise, and sewi i 
more generations for soldiers and other elites to fully accept ill the social a in 
military changes required by the new chariot wail am It was not until the scv< i 
teenth century that all of these complex clement' i im.ilh in place in id 

I |r, 


I -per balance to maximize the military potential of chariot warfare. From the 
ihtary perspective, the transition from the Middle Bronze Age to the Late 
■ nze Age - usually dated to around 1600 BCE - can be defined as the transition 
in non-chariot-centered warfare to the new chariot warfare. 

Artistic evidence on the development of the chariot 25 

I here are a few examples of the continued use of the four-wheeled chariot in the 

ulv Middle Bronze Age {2000-1600} in Anatolia, but depictions of fbur- 

leeled war-carts in a military context have disappeared by the nineteenth century 26 

roughout the rest of the Middle Bronze Age the majority of the depictions of 

I 1 vehicles - nearly all from cylinder seals - are two-wheeled vehicles drawn by 

< « horses (ELH). A rough outline of the development and use of the war-chariot 

ii be culled from these examples. The data can be broadly divided into roughly 

i periods, the early Middle Bronze {2000-1800} and the late Middle Bronze 

1 ><)-1600}. It must be emphasized that our evidence is quite limited and we are 

mially reduced to generalizing from inadequate data. The following is a list of 

major evidence with a military context. 

Early Middle Bronze evidence {2000-1800} 

< ylinder seal, Kultepe (Karum), Anatolia {2000-1850} (WV §29; ELH §4). 
A single rider, a royal figure with an axe, in a chariot with two four- spoked 
wheels, drawn by two horses with nose rings rather than reins (cf. WV §28). 
( ylinder seal, Uruk, Iraq {20-19C} (WV §30, p. 69). Single rider in chariot 
with two spoked wheels. 

i lay tablet with cylinder seal impression, Babylon {1779} (Figure 4d, p. 133; 
II §730; WV §31). The single rider is a king on a chariot with two four- 
spoked wheels, trampling a prostrate enemy, and followed by four soldiers in a 
procession before the gods. 

C ylinder seal, Syria {19-17C} (FI §728). A single rider in a chariot with two 
four-spoked wheels, trampling a prostrate enemy 

Based on this - admittedly limited — evidence, we find the following char- 

tei lstics of chariot warfare in the early Middle Bronze period {2000—1800}. Only 

n s wo -wheeled chariot was used for military purposes, a practice which had prob- 

begun in the Neo-Sumerian period {2200-2000} as discussed on pp. 141-5. 

I lie Early Bronze technique of having a single rider on the two-wheeled Sumer- 

i war cart continued throughout the early Middle Bronze Age; all of the 

ilcpn lions from this period show a single rider. This obviously had its limitations, 

illy when facing archery to which the charioteer could not respond at a 

mce. The earlier Sumerian trampling-the-prostate-enemy motif, whether 

mholn oi tactical, continued throughout the Middle Bronze Age (items 24 and 

1 i hove) ( 'h.i i lots are sometimes accompanied by infantry, who generally follow 

I I 


the chariot (item 24). This characteristic is also found in Neo-Sumerian chariot 
warfare. From hints in the depiction of equids, we find the increasing and even 
tually exclusive use of horses (characterized by short ears and manes) to pull 
chariots. Horses are first attested pulling war-carts in the Neo-Sumerian period, 
becoming universal during the early Middle Bronze period. The axe continued to 
be used by chariot warriors (item, 22), but there are no early Middle Bronze artistic 
examples of the use of the javelin or the bow from the chariot, although the use ol 
the bow is attested in the Neo-Sumerian texts discussed on pp. 143—5. Finally, we 
see a shift from, disk wheels to spoked wheels (items 22—25). In other words, other 
than the adoption of the spoked wheel, which is the major innovation of the early 
Middle Bronze Age, all of the characteristics of early Middle Bronze chariot war- 
fare were also found in the early Neo-Sumerian period. What happened during 
the early Middle Bronze Age seems to have been the universal adoption 
throughout the Near East of late Neo-Sumerian practices. 

Late Middle Bronze evidence {1800-1600} 

In contrast, during the later Middle Bronze period we find a number of innova 
tions in chariot warfare depicted in our artistic sources. 

26 Cylinder seal, Syria {19-17C} (FI §729). Chariot with two six-spoked 
wheels; single rider has quiver on his back and is followed by four soldiers on 

27 Cylinder seal, Syria {1850-1650} (WV §33; ETH §5). Chariot with two 
four-spoked wheels drawn by two horses with two riders, trampling a pros 
trate enemy who raises his arms to protect his face. 

28 Cylinder seal, Syria {1850-1650} (WV §4; ELH §6). Chariot with two foui 
spoked wheels drawn by two horses; driver has a quiver on his back, while a 
man behind him with an axe and a dagger is either attacking him, or, more 
likely, stepping into the chariot to ride with him. 

29 Cylinder seal, Syria {1750-1600} (ELH pi. 2). Chariot with two four-spoked 
wheels drawn by two horses trampling a prostrate enemy who raises an arm to 
protect himself; the single rider is followed by three infantrymen 

30 Cylinder seal, Syria {1750-1600} (ELH pi. 3; MK 160; WV §35). Chariot 
with two four-spoked wheels (with metal rims?) drawn by two horses; singlr 
driver with bow and quiver on his shoulder is followed by three men on foot 
wearing helmets. A partially damaged lower portion seems to show a nun 
being trampled. 

31 Cylinder seal, Syria {1750-1600} (ELH pi. 4; MK 160). A single rider in a 
chariot with two four-spoked wheels, drawn by two horses; a prostrate body 
and severed head indicates a military context. 

32 Cylinder seal, Syria {1750-1600} (ELH pi. 5). A single rider in a chariot will. 
two seven-spoked wheels, drawn by two horses; the ruin a quiver on In 
back and is followed by four soldiers on tool I li< iltivci seems to have 


helmet, and the hatched markings on his long skirt may dicate bronze scale 

I ylinder seal, Syria {1750-1600?} (Figure 4e, p. 133; W 63, §36). A single 
i ider in chariot with two eight-spoked wheels, drawn by vo horses; the rider 

I lis a quiver on his back and is shooting a bow while drivirj- He apparently has 

I I le reins wrapped around his waist (or tied to the front pane^f the chariot?); this 
I the first representation of this practice (WV 63), which widely depicted in 

later New Kingdom Egyptian chariot warfare (e.g. E\P 198, 240). The 
1 1. itched markings on his long robe may indicate bronze s^e armor. 
< vlmder seal,. Anatolia {17C} (FI 57, §841). A huntm^cene depicts four 
i wo-wheeled chariots each drawn by two horses on the hnt; three carry one 
nun, one has two men. The scene is small and the detail<?oniewhat obscure, 
I 'lit one man seems to have a quiver on his back. Another in a chariot with a 
0! iver, is shooting a bow; several animals seem to have ar?ws in them. 
1 Minder seal, Syria {1800-1600?} (MK 162). A sing* rider in a two- 
heeled chariot pull by two horses, followed by one mP with a spear and 
I iother with a dagger. 

I his evidence from the late Middle Bronze period {180C"1600} attests to a 

llliber of fundamental innovations in chariot warfare. The d& from the use of 

ft »e ring to bit and reins, allowing for more efficient drivig, is first attested in 

ton in the early eighteenth century (items 24, 26-28). Al^ough the use of a 

i ider remains the norm, we begin to see the driver and w™or combination 

<" ( omes predominant in Late Bronze chariot warfare (ite^s 27, 28 and 34). 

Hie of a lighter frame and spoked wheels decreased the wight of the chariot 

•i' i nly to allow the cart eventually to be widened enough o allow two riders, 

main light enough to be faster than an enemy on foot. 

idence of a close association of archery with chariotry arpears with increas- 

fr quency, generally as a quiver and/or bow on the back of he chariot warrior 

ins 2(>, 28, 30, 32, and 34). This raises an important issue.The association of 

Jft v equipment with a charioteer does not necessarily meai the bow was shot 

I moving chariot during warfare. It may simply be that he chariot warrior 

■I the full panoply of Middle Bronze weapons with hm in his chariot, 

ludtng the bow. He may have dismounted to fight and shoo his bow Thus, in 

Hon to the mere presence of a bow, it is important to note he appearance, for 

« nine, of scenes of actually shooting the bow from chariot, both by a driver 

md by a warrior accompanied by a driver (items 33 and 34). 

1 h.u tots continue to be accompanied by infantry, as they we r e in the Sumerian 

I nlv Middle Bronze periods (items 26, 29, 30, and 32). This emphasizes the 

portant potential vulnerability of the chariot to light infants The chariot was 

dice me used with combined-arms tactics in conjunction with infan- 

I Ims chariot warriors continue to be armed with axe aril dagger as melee 

■pons [oi dismounted combat (item 28). Finally, although tK interpretation of 

rti tu evident e is nn« main, two charioteers have hatch mirked ' Nothing that 

t I 


may be intended to represent bronze scale armor (items 32 and 33). In summary, 
the late Middle Bronze period {1800-1600} was one of significant innovation in 
chariot warfare, including the bit and rein, driver-warrior teams, archery from 
chariots, and the introduction of bronze armor. Thus, all of the elements of the 
revolutionary chariot warfare of the Late Bronze were in place by the seventeenth 

The symbolic or tactical trampling- the-prostrate-enemy motif retains its 
importance in the late Middle Bronze period (items 27, 29, and 31). As noted 
above, the war-cart trampling scene became a standard symbol of victory in Early 
Bronze Sumer, appearing frequently in Middle Bronze depictions of chariots, 
indicating a continuity of symbolic ideology from Early Bronze war-cart to Mid- 
dle Bronze chariot, as well as the probable tactical continuity in the actual use of 
the chariot in battle. Although the precise means of ideological and artistic trans- 
mission are unclear, by the eighteenth century the trampling scene is found in 
Anatolia (item 27), Syria (items 29—31) and Babylon (item 24); in other words, it 
has become a universal war motif throughout the Near East outside of Egypt. 

In this regard, an important question for the military historian is whether the 
trampling scene was intended to represent an actual military tactic, or was merely ;i 
striking means to symbolize victory in battle. However this may be, it is certainly 
possible that war-carts could have trampled corpses, wounded or fleeing enemies, 
and, under the right circumstances, could in theory have broken standing enemy 
infantry formations as welL Two of the later Middle Bronze trampling scenes show 
that the victims on the ground are animate and clearly alive, raising their arms to 
protect themselves from the oncoming chariot (items 27 and 29; ELH §5-6). 

Chariot warfare in Middle Bronze texts 21 

Compared with artistic representations of chariots, the Middle Bronze texts about 
chariot warfare are rather elusive. None the less, enough evidence survives to give 
us a broad picture of the chariot in battle. Ishme-Dagan, king of Isin {1953-1935 \ 
has left: us a detailed literary description of a chariot from the early Middle Bronze 
which complements Gudea's description given on pp. 143— 4. 28 The hymn praises 
both the god Enlil, for whom the chariot was made, and Isme-Dagan, the kin;' 
who ordered its construction. It provides both a detailed description of the parts ot 
the chariot, a mythic account of the cosmic meaning of the chariot, and some 
hints as to its military significance (see also ARM 7.161). The chariot was built 
and possibly specific elements of its design were specified - by order of Enlil in .in 
oracle given in his temple. 

O lofty chariot; Enlil, the lord of intelligence, the father of the gods, 
Spoke about your construction, in the Ekur [temple], his sublime shrine.. 

A number of specific parts of the chariot are mentioned, with a coinpli 
technical terminology for the various parts of thr < h.n mi p. >l -I - n >p< 

I a. 


pole pin, front guard, platform, beams, side boards, and foot board. These types ol 
.terns are also mentioned in several of the texts from the Man archive, though the 
technical terminology is somewhat opaque (MK 162-3; ARM 18.45 7 161) It h 
adorned with "silver, gold and precious stones". Since the chariot was to carry the 
statue of the god in ceremonial processions, it was apparently a portable temple 
and is described as a microcosm of the universe. 

Although the text is fundamentally mythic in function, some military details of 
the chariot are also mentioned. A bow may be mentioned in an uncertain passage 
(line 12), supplementing the mention of a bow in Gudea's chariot. Both driver and 
warrior are described as fighting: "[On] your [the chariot's platform], warriors 
[are] fighting together" side-by-side. The poem describes the god Enlil entering 
the chariot to go orT to war, undoubtedly paralleling the practice of earthly kings. 

[Enlil] completed his great harnessing, he stepped in [the chariot! 

He embraced Ninlil, the Mother [goddess], his wife. 

[The wargod] Nmurta [son of Enlil], the hero, [went in front (as driver?)] 

The Anunnas [a class of gods] . . . [marched] after him 

The chariot shines like lightning, its bellowing [noise] a pleasure. 

[. . •] the donkeys harnessed to the yoke. 

Enlil [is in] his mighty chariot, his shining [glory] is bright. 

I. is appears to be a textual reference to Ninurta, the war-god and son of Enlil 

Ither driving the chariot for his father, or perhaps preceding the chariot on foot' 

' m is accompanied by the Anunnas, a class of gods, who follow or surround the 

■ .not on foot, just as infantrymen are frequently shown accompanying chariots 
hi the artistic sources. 

The use of chariots (narkabtum) in battle is not mentioned extensively in the 
Man archive (WM 144). It appears that, by 1750, the chariot had not yet become 
major element of Mesopotamian warfare. There are, however, a number of hints 
hil .night point to the limited use of chariots in combat. One problem in inter- 
I ■■nng the use of combat chariots is that the distinction between the terms for 
Ight wagon and for chariot is unclear; both are probably best translated as cart 29 
i example, one passage mentions the itinerary of an army on the march 
• I ibing the "elite troops, chariots and gear"; it is not clear from the text if the 
Chariots" were war-chariots or carts carrying the gear (L 222). There are 
limerous references to carts for transportation purposes (L 184, 223). Chariots 
re clearly used for messengers and for transportation of small valuable goods 
hie text mentions the delivery by chariot of silver cups (MK 161). Chariots were 
' usee! m religious ceremonies (MK 161); the "golden chariot" mentioned in 
Man archive was probably intended to carry statues of the gods, or perhaps for 
UU king in ceremonial processions (L 324; MM 32). 

\n additional problem in interpreting the textual evidence for chariots is the 

- "I the term rakib ansi-:iii a, "rider of cquids" (L 593 index). A double ambi- 

' UIU rX,S,S m thls P 11 '^'' " ,h '- "Mdi-r riding the a,uid .(self or riding a chariot 


drawn by equids? Second, what specific species of equid is intended? I agree with 
Heimpel's interpretation that this phrase is a technical term for charioteer (L 593). 
Several lines of evidence point in this direction. First, the artistic evidence dis- 
cussed above clearly points to the prominence of the chariot, and the rarity oi 
actually riding equids. Second, the texts strongly imply that these "riders" arc 
persons of importance; culturally speaking, this would associate them with char- 
iots, the vehicles of kings and gods, as indicated by concepts of proper royal riding 
decorum discussed on p. 141 (ARM 6.76; EEH 120b). Third, even when discussing 
a single "rider", the texts use the plural for the equids (L 296, 402) - thus a single 
rider rides multiple animals, an impossibility if the man was riding the back of an 
animal, but the norm if the equids are pulling chariots. 

The texts mention "riders" as royal messengers, or perhaps better ambassadors, 
men not just carrying a clay tablet but on special missions from the king, accom- 
panying "high ranking servants" (L 322, 385, 402, 517). In a sense "rider of 
equids" almost seems like an aristocratic title in the texts rather than a description 
of a means of transportation. It is perhaps closer to the idea of an English "knight" 
in the Hundred Years War period, who did not necessarily actually fight from 
horseback, just as the Roman equites was a member of an aristocratic order and nol 
necessarily a combat cavalryman. 

There are two texts which give some indication of the actual combat use oi 
chariots. One text implies that chariots were vehicles used by officers in battle 
One army is described as having "four thousand good troops; the generals 
Hammu-Rabi and Dada and the diviner Kakka-Ruqqum, riders of equids, an 
those in the lead of those troops" (L 225). Clearly the chariot is mentioned here .is 
a vehicle for a high official to ride to or during battle. But three chariots among 
4000 men would not be sufficient to have a significant tactical effect on the out 
come of a battle. On the other hand, the text does not explicitly state that their 
were not other combat charioteers as well, only that the three highest officers m 
the army were "riders of equids". The limited scale of the employment of char i< »i 
on Middle Bronze battlefields was probably related to the enormous cost of hot.' 
One horse could cost five minas (300 shekels: MM 13), fifteen times the comb I 
wages of a captain (see pp. 196-7). At such a cost a king would be hard pressed i« 
field a large number of chariots, and would be wary of risking such valuable horse 
in combat. 

There is another text, however, which points to substantial numbers of comba 
charioteers in battle. A general defeated an army of 500 men operating on th< 
plains area of the middle Khabur River, and claimed to have captured "t\v<T 
riders of equids" (L 417). These were apparently important: men, because 1 1 1 
were being held for prisoner exchange for two officers. Assuming each of tin ■ 
a charioteer, we have a ratio of at least one charioteer per forty infantrymen tl 
actual ratio was probably lower since presumably some of the charioteers est ,i| 
or were killed rather than captured. This compares nicely with the one ehai lot 
per thirty-five infantrymen in contemporary Anatoli, i (Ml II !7; see p. \() \) 
may imply there was a substantial chariot component in sunn nntihern S\ n 

I 12 


n-mies in the mid-eighteenth century. It mav u • . f , , 

Syrian army, rather than an army from Tm Slgmfkant that thlS 1S a northerl 
team pointing to northern Syria and Anatol' MeS ° P0tamian " Ver val H P« ha P 
ptsm warfare. la as the zone of greatest use of char 

Conclusi on 

In the Near East the final synthesis of all of m f , • 

*ems to have occurred m Syria and central T T" f ^ C ° ^"^ "^ 
imong the H.ttites, Humans, and Syrians v u '" ^ Seventeenth centur y 
Interesting observation about the relative in , HammUrabi ofBabylon made an 
"ion in Syria and Mesopotamia- "The „ P ° rtan f ° f wa 8 on vs - boat transpor- 
bnri-Lim's] land [the city of Man in SvnT* I , tranS P omtion ] of Y™ [king 
asportation] of this land [Babylon] is W-V^Sf T^u""?"" ^ 
rtainly known m Babylon the rivers and } ' MAou & the charlot ™» 

tovided ideal avenues for transport by boat^T* T^ ^ lrrigatl ° n dkcheS 
I -port. Furthermore, the same canals L f r ^/f " ^ ""^ ^ ^ 
not transport. The situation was much I faCllltated , boat trans P°" hindered 
m transformation from war-cart to the ! ""t * "** ^ Thm the 
Bd Anatolian highlands, where carts rathl T ^T™* * ^ Synan 

*re the standard means of transport By the I ac u? lmgati ° n SyStemS ' 

■ find texts describing the actual us / of heend oftheL ^ Bronze Age we begin 
I littite archive (WV 63-5). Given the exnl * m ' es P ecialh / from ^ 

Hittites in Anatolia, Syria, and MesonrT^ ^ UI1 P recedented vlct °"« of 
■). one is tempted to sulpect ^ZV^Tk T ^ ^T ^ 
M foUy and successfully synthesized all of tW ? ^T ^ ^ **' ^ 

Ingle system, which would bring about the be ^ u °' "^ mt ° & 

» 'are for the next half-millennium be S lnnln g of the new "chariot age" of 


I ncia 

I S I 


Middle Bronze Mesopotamia 
{c. 2000-1600} 

There are three main military characteristics of the Middle Bronze Age in Meso- 
potamia. First, we see the increasing importance of non-Mesopotamian peoples 
who migrate into, and in various ways come to militarily dominate, Mesopotamia. 
These include Elamites from south-western Iran, Hurrians from eastern Anatolia, 
and most importantly Amorites from the steppe fringes of Syria. In the earl 
Middle Bronze period Amorite warlords managed to usurp control over most of 
the city-states of Mesopotamia, establishing a series of Amorite dynasties. Whil 
most of the population of Mesopotamia remained Akkadian or Sumerian speakers 
the military elites tended to be Amorites. The domination of Mesopotamia by 
non-Mesopotamian military aristocracies was to remain a regular, though not 
constant, feature of Mesopotamia military history for the next four thousam 

years. 1 

The second major military development was the disappearance of political 
unity for the first two-and-a-half centuries of the Middle Bronze Age, and the 
reintegration of Mesopotamia into a single state under Hammurabi of Babylon 
{1792-1750}, himself a descendant of Amorite warlords. The period of disunity is 
often called the Ism-Larsa period {2017-1792}, after the two dominant city-state 
of Mesopotamia. The second phase is known as the Old Babylonian period 
{1792-1595}, during which Babylon arises as the predominant power am 
reunites Mesopotamia. The period ends in 1595 with the destruction of Babylon 
by an invading Hittite army under Mursilis I (see pp. 183-4, 301-2). 

Isin-Larsa period {2017-1792} 

For the two centuries after the fall of Ur, southern Mesopotamia was embroiled in 
a complicated see-saw struggle between numerous city-states for domination i 
the region. Although the broad outline of events can be established, the precis 
details are often elusive, due to numerous lacunae and ambiguities in the evidern i 
The internecine and often chaotic warfare characterizing the Isin-Larsa perio. 
culminates m the early eighteenth century as two new centers of military pow< i 
begin to emerge in Mesopotamia: Assyria in the norih und< i Sli.umhi Adad, .in. 
Babylon in the center under Hammurabi. The Nni-Lam period begins with th 

I .1 


dgration of the Amorites into Mesopotamia and the fall of Ur, as described in 
I liapter Four. 

The Amorites (mar.tu, Amurru) {2200-2000} 2 

in some ways the predominance of the Amorites marks the commencement of the 
lu idle Bronze Age. Beginning around 2200 from their original homeland in the 

Syrian steppe country to the west of Mesopotamia, they migrated throughout 

Syria, Mesopotamia, and Canaan during the following centuries. Amorite is a 
nguistic term defining an ethnic group speaking a North-west Semitic language. 

I In 1 name derives from the Sumerian mar.tu (Akkadian, Amurru), meaning 
West" or "Westerner" — a reference to the land and people in the deserts and 
mi -arid regions to the west of the Euphrates River. The Amorites were a 
Dmadic people who "from ancient times have known no cities" (K3/2:364); 

(heir nomadic background is clearly reflected in Sumerian administrative texts, 
lure Amorites are frequently associated with livestock and animal products 
hich they exchange for manufactured goods from the cities (AUP 16-45, 282— 
1 I). From the Sumerian perspective they are described as: 

lent dwellers buffeted by wind and rain, who dig up mushrooms at the foot 
( >f the mountain; he does not know how to bend the knee [to Sumerian royal 
authority] . He does not cultivate grain, but eats uncooked meat. In his life- 
time he does not have a house, and on the day of his death he will not be 
buried. The Amorite does not know house or city; [he is] an awkward man 
living in the mountains. 3 

I rom a military perspective, the Amorites were described as fierce warriors, "as 
p< iwerful as the southern wind" (AUP 94), who frequently created fear among the 
■ uinrrians (AUP 336-7). "The hostile Amorites" are "a ravaging people, with the 
1 1 -i incts of a beast, like wolves" (R3/2:299; AUP 332). Centuries later their fierceness 
lid military prowess remained legendary; the Israelite prophet Amos describes 
the Amorite, whose stature equaled the cedar, and whose strength equaled the 
oak" (Amos 2:9). 

Nomadic herders predominated in many of the ecological zones of the Near 
.ist, both mountain pastures and steppe, during much of the Bronze Age. 4 Care 
must be taken to distinguish between the pastoralism of the Bronze Age and that 
il Liter periods. The full domestication and integration of the camel and horse 
iniu nomadic economies and military systems significantly changed the nature and 
nilitary impact of nomadic groups in the Near East, especially after the develop- 
in of horse-archery in the tenth and ninth centuries. The Arabian camel was 
probably domesticated by the late third millennium, but military camelry did not 
have extensive impact before the early Iron Age. 

I here weir, however, several military advantages for Bronze Age nomads. 
1 hm w.iv ol lift* rreated hardened warriors, with instinctive survival skills often 


not found in sedentary populations. As non-agricultural tribal groups, a greate 
percentage of their male population were available for military service, since the \ 
were not bound to agricultural work on the land for lengthy periods of time. / 
tribe of a few thousand could produced as many effective warriors as a city-stat< 
with many times their numbers, since most of the male population of the cities 
knew little of warfare and were required to spend much of their time caring 1 
their farms. Furthermore, their lack of a central city and fields meant that they 
were difficult to defeat permanently, since they could simply flee into the wild 
erness with their herds where sedentary armies found it logistically difficult to 
operate for any period of time. 

The agriculturalists admired the martial skills of the nomad, while despising 
their perceived barbarism. Uncontained nomads represented a serious militar 
threat to sedentary kingdoms, either from raids on fields, villages, and caravans, 01 
from widespread invasion and plunder. One standard sedentary response was to u 
various means to hire the nomads to provide protection and military service. 

The highlander pastoralists were viewed much the same as the steppe nomad 
and are described as being "warriors constantly coming to raid the cities" (HI 
238). The archetypal leader of the highlanders is the mythic demon Azag, . 
"fearless warrior" whose "attack no hand can stay, it is very heavy" (HTO 23 
239). Demonic warriors in mythic texts are described in terms probably reflectin 
the Mesopotamian view of nomad mercenaries: 

The men who went after him for the king were a motley crew 

They knew not [civilized] food, knew not drink, 

Ate not flour strewn [before the altars as offerings] 

Drank not water [poured to the gods] as a libation . . . 

They set not tooth into the pungent garlic; 

They were men who ate not fish, men who ate not onions.. . . 

[They] stunk of camelthorn and urine of the corner . . . 

Around their necks hung fly-shaped beads [stolen] from anointed priests . . 

Weapons and severed heads [were] tied to their hips (HTO 35-7, cf. 222). 

In the Bronze Age, nomads generally fought on foot, or occasionally in w.i 
carts, as did all other armies. Whereas horse and camel riding were spread in : . 
during the Middle Bronze Age, actual combat on horseback was rare or unknown 
during this period. 

The earliest recorded Amorite homeland was in the area around Mount Bash 
(or Basalla, modern Jebel Bishri in Syria), the "mountain of the Amorites" (Al 
236-41; HE2 116-21). Although originally nomads and semi-nomads on i 
western fringes of Mesopotamia, Amorites began to migrate into Sinner in tl 
early third millennium, drawn to the fertility and wealth of the cities in the rivel 
valley. They are mentioned in documents as living in Sinner as early as the tweni 
sixth century; eventually Sumerian administrators developed a specific otfu ei i 
charge of Amorite affairs, the "Inspector of the Aniontes" ' I he earliest Amoim 



ked political unity, being divided into several different and often feuding tribes, 

■ I over by tribal chiefs known as the ahum or "father" (R3/2:297; AUP 332- 

I hese chiefs could hold high status in Mesopotamian society; some apparently 

irried into royal Sumerian families (AUP 338—9). Among the most important 

Amorite tribes are the Yahmadu, Tidnum (Didnum), and Yahmutum (AUP 

5). Despite these tribal divisions, feuding Amorite clans were known to have 

lined together on occasion into larger confederations to fight the Sumerians 

MM* 334). Another important fact to remember is that, although the Amorites 

re originally nomadic, by the year 2000 many can be found already settled in 

and farming villages. While generally retaining their old tribal bonds and 

lines, many Amorites had become city-dwellers or farmers. Others became 

hi nomads, farming part of the year in semi-permanent houses, but wandering 

I of the year to care for their herds. Still others remained pure nomads, con- 

g to herd their animals in their original mountain and desert wilderness. 

ii is impossible to tell for certain if the crisis at the end of the Bronze Age was 

ised by the Amorites, or was created by conditions - ecological stress in pas- 

i- -lands, combined with political and military weakness in sedentary lands - 

lich facilitated the migration and conquests of the Amorites. Most likely a 

implex combination of factors contributed to the Early Bronze crisis, in which 

\morites were both a cause and an effect: climatic, ecological, social, and 

I meal difficulties created conditions which facilitated Amorite migration and 
tiquest, while the Amorite migration exacerbated the already existing political 

risis in Mesopotamia. It must also be emphasized that, while from an archae- 
ological perspective this transition seems rather rapid, it in fact transpired over two 
mdred years, roughly equivalent to the time from Napoleon to the present day If 
nk one major city-state was conquered by the Amorites every five years, the 
unulative effect over the course of two centuries would be the transition of 
l" >wer in forty city-states — in other words, most of the major cities in the Near East. 
I he* migration of Amorites from their original homeland around Mount Bashar 
i Syria clearly began before 2200, and spread in all directions. However, the crisis 
the end of the Early Bronze Age created a military climate of anarchy which 

I I Mated more extensive Amorite migrations, as well as their ability to usurp 
power m the city-states and regions into which they migrated. From around 2200 

1 900 Amorite tribes and warlords migrated and conquered much of the Near 

is! seizing power in a number of important city-states in Canaan, Syria, and 

< potamia. During this same period the Hurrians spread south and east from 

h ii tore zone in the Khabur triangle (see pp. 303—7). The specific impact of 

\iMorite conquests will be discussed in the chapters devoted to each of these 

The rise of the Amorites in Mesopotamia {2100-1900} 

I In In t military appearam e <>l the Amorites in the historical consciousness of the 
Sumerians oct ins in tin- Ml idiati, when Naram Sin {2255—2218} claims 




to have defeated the Amorites who formed part of a rebellious coalition against 
him. His son Shar-kalli-shari {2217-2192} undertook an expedition against their 
mountain stronghold at Mount Bashar in Syria. 7 Thereafter the Amorites appear 
with increasing frequency in Mesopotamian texts. 

Amorite migration into Mesopotamia occurred by both peaceful and military 
means. Many Amorite tribes traded with Sumerian cities, and sent envoys on 
diplomatic missions (AUP 337—8), thereby becoming accustomed to urban ways 
and products (AUP 323—62); people with Amorite names were found in many 
cities in Sumer during the late Ur III period, but most prominently in Drehem 
(near Nippur), Isin, and Lagash (AUP 253-73). Some became fully integrated into 
Sumerian society, taking service with Sumerian lords, as indicated by references to 
Amorites on government ration distribution lists (AUP 34—64). Others became 
agriculturalists or engaged in other sedentary occupations (AUP 46-7). Still others 
were allowed to graze their herds in marginal pastures surrounding the rich irri- 
gated agricultural land of Mesopotamia. Amorites passing through Sumerian land 
are once described as having a Sumerian military escort, presumably to prevent 
pillaging or other trouble (AUP 343). Increasing interaction between Sumerians 
and Amorites also led to some transfer of military technology; wagons or carts 
(gigir) are described as being given to the Amorites (AUP 24), though it is not 
certain if these vehicles were for transportation or war. The process of partial 
integration combined with continued nomadism in the hinterlands was to have 
important military consequences in the following centuries. 

Most importantly from the military perspective, some Amorites who settled in 
Mesopotamia eventually became mercenaries or government officials (AUP 340- 
1, 357). As the Ur III political order disintegrated during the reign of Ibbisin 
{2028-2004}, high officials or military commanders of a number of city-states 
became functionally independent. These included the Amorite Nablanum {2025- 
2005}, who became king of Larsa after the fall of Ur III, as discussed on pp. 1 17—20. 
His successor, Zabaia of Larsa {1941-1933}, and others of the early dynasty con- 
tinued to use the title "chief of the Amorites" (rabian Amurrim) as part of then 
royal nomenclature (R4:112, 122). At the same time, Amorite warbands invaded 
and conquered much of Mesopotamia, eventually taking control of a number ot 
cities where their chiefs were established as kings. By the nineteenth century 
Amorite dynasties were in control of most of the major Sumerian city-states, 
including Larsa, Kish, Babylon, Sippar, Marad, and Urah, becoming the most 
powerful military force in Mesopotamia. 

The rise to power of Amorite warlords in Mesopotamia is illuminated to somi 
degree by our fragmentary knowledge of the Amorite chieftain (rabian Amurrim) 
Abda-El and his son Ushashum, They appeared around 2000 in north-central 
Mesopotamia, where they astutely played the game of power politics in the anai 
chy following the fall of Ur. Abda-El made an important alliance by marry in;.' 
Ushashum to the daughter of Nur-Ahum, ruler of Eshnunna, In return for thi 
alliance, Eshnunna was protected from Amorite raids, ami i ould call on tin 
clansmen for military service as allies. At the same time ntbei Annnites are also 

I >8 

Pound serving as mercenary-allies for Ishbi-Irra of Isin m his wars against the 
Elamites. After a victory, Ishbi-Irra instructed his officials to divide the booty from 
the Elarmte campaign with the Amorites, giving "890 sheep and goat skins for 
wrapping silver as gifts for the Amorites when Elam was defeated" (PH 10) On 
the other hand, Amorite soldiers also campaigned on their own accord One text 
describes how "the [Amorite] tribe of Hadam has defeated 1500 troops of [Zabazuna 
son of] Iddin-Sin" (PH 11), indicating that the Amorites were militarily capable of 
raising enough men to defeat an army of 1500 from a Mesonotamian city-state 
I his defeat was considered serious enough for the garrison commander of 
Eshnunna to be warned to "guard your city!" (PH 11). 

Taken together, this evidence indicates that a judicious combination of royal 
marriage, mercenary service, increased wealth from plunder, and independent 
■ ampaigns allowed Abda-El and other Amorite chiefs to become significant mili- 
tary powers in the region. In a sense the Amorites could become arbiter, of the 
political balance of power. Those rulers who could draw the Amorites to their side 
[ained a significant military advantage. In the end, the funeral of Abda-El was an 
■vent of international importance in Mesopotamia. A letter from Eshnunna 
describes how "the ambassadors of the whole land are coming for the funeral of 
Abda-El and all the Amorites are gathering. Whatever you intend to send [as a gift 
for the Amorites] for the funeral of Abda-El, your father, send separately" 
(< )BLTA 49; PH 15-16). Presumably this process broadly paralleled the migration 
integration, and conquests by Germanic peoples in the later Roman period or 
I urkic peoples in the medieval Near East. The ultimate result is that, by the end of 
the twentieth century, most Mesopotamian city-states had come under the dom- 
ination of Amorite royal dynasties, either through usurpation by Amorite warlords 
or conquests by outside tribes. Most of these royal dynasties of Amorite ancestry 
became integrated into the Mesopotamian political, cultural, and religious order 
ruling in the style of traditional Sumerian or Akkadian kings. The following sec- 
tions will examine the fortunes of the most important of these Amorite warlords 
and dynasties, culminating with the most successful of them all, Hammurabi of 

The Kingdom of Isin {2017-1794} 8 

Ishbi-Irra (Ishbi-Erra) of Isin {2017-1985 f 

As the military situation in Mesopotamia worsened under the ineffectual leader- 
Inp of Ibbisin of Ur, regional Sumerian governors and commanders were 
increasingly left to their own devices for defending their territory against the 
fcounnng Amorite and highlander threats. The most important of these was Ishbi- 
Irr.. ol Ism [2017-1985}, the most successful Sumerian warlord of the age of the 
Imonte invasions. Ishbi-Irra begnn his career as governor of Isin for the faltering 
Ibbism. I'he.r deteriorating relations, leading to Ishbi-Irra's decision to declare 
' ' pendciK c, have been di\< ussed e.ulier, mi pp. I 17 20. 


In a remarkable letter to one of his rivals, Puzur-Shulgi of Kazallu, Ishbi-ln i 
outlined his justifications for usurping the kingship of Mesopotamia, and the 
mechanisms by which he planned to assume control: 

[The god] Enlil, my king, by his command, has given me [Ishbi-IrraJ th< 
kingship of Sumer. Enlil commanded me to bring the cities, gods and peoph 
from the bank of the Tigris to the bank of the Euphrates, from the bank of the 
Abnunme [canal] to the bank of the Me-Enlila [canal], and from the land o( 
Hamasi to the sea of Magan [Persian Gulf], to the presence of Nin-Isina, to set 
up Isin as the chief cult place of Enlil, to make it have a reputation, to can \ 
off spoils, and to conquer cities. Why do you [Puzur-Shulgi] resist me: I 
swore by [the god] Dagan, my lord: "Let my hand overwhelm Kazallu!" I <>i 
each city of the land which Enlil entrusted to me, [I] will build thrones [l"i 
their gods] in Isin, and will celebrate their [divine] monthly festivals. I will 
settle my statues, my emblems, my en priests and my gods in their gipam ch.i 
pels. Let their citizens utter their prayers before Enlil in [the temple] Ekur and 
before Nanna in [the temple] Ekishnugal!. . . [Ishbi-Irra] has taken Nippur, si I 
his men as the garrison, and captured Nigugani, the highest priest of Nippm 

Here Ishbi-Irra clearly outlined the standard ideological and programmatic pl.m 
for conquest in ancient Mesopotamia. First, you must act only at the command o 
the gods. Second, the purpose of the conquests is always to insure proper ordrt 
and worship and fame of the gods; plunder from the cities is given by the gods 
Third, Ishbi-Irra offered his rival Puzur-Shulgi the chance to submit peaceably 1 1 
the will of the gods: "Why do you [Puzur-Shulgi] resist me?" Fourth, the statute! 
of gods of captured cities and lands were apparently provided thrones in Isin, an< 
given proper divine honors. Fifth, the priests of the gods were systematica II \ 
replaced by priests appointed by Ishbi-Irra, while royal statues and emblems were 
set up in the temple precincts, with a garrison to insure compliance. Finally, tin 
conquered people were required to perform some type of ritual act of allegiance t< 
Ishbi-Irra s new order as part of their temple rituals. Although not all elements ol 
this program are always manifest in the surviving sources, these basic elements 
continue across most of the Near East throughout antiquity. 

His early years as independent king were spent securing his position in centra 
Mesopotamia against both Amorite invaders and Sumerian rivals. In 2014 {Y4} ln- 
conquered the city of Girtab (IYN 13), probably from an Amorite. An unnamed 
city in Amorite hands was defeated in 2010 {Y8} (IYN 13; AUP 93). By this tun 
Ishbi-Irra was well on his way to military predominance in central Mesopotamia 
An agent of the king of Ur wrote the following report of Ishbi-Irra 's advances t< 
his lord Ibbisin: 

[Ishbi-Irra] has built the wall of Isin.. . . He has taken Nippm, set his men ,i 
the garrison, and captured Nigugani, the Inghi-si pi i> f of Nippur Mr h.i 

|r, 1 1 


made [his general] Idi enter Malgium and plundered Hamasi. He has put 
1 1 mum, governor of Subartu, in prison. He has returned Nur-Ahum, gov- 

i nor of Eshnunna, Shu-Enlil, governor of Kish, and Puzur-Tut, governor of 
Morsippa to their [former] positions [from which Ibbisin had removed them 
foi disloyalty?].. . . Ishbi-Irra proceeds at the head of his army. . . He captured 
the banks of the Tigris, Euphrates, [and] the Abgal and Me-Enlila canals. He 
Mi ought in Idin-Malgium [as an ally]. He quarreled with Girbubu, the gov- 
tior of Girkal . . . and took him prisoner. His battle cry lies heavy upon me. 

now he has set his eye upon me. I have no ally, no one to go [to battle] with! 

v It hough his hand has not yet reached me, should he descend upon me, I 

1 1, .11 have to flee. (PH 9; MC 253-68) 

the following years Ishbi-Irra focused attention on fortifying his domain, 

I in-', a "great wall" to protect his capital Isin, as well as several other fortifica- 

i IYN 14-17; OBLTA 25-6). Thereafter he felt secure enough to go on the 

i ive. In the meantime the city-states of Mesopotamia were coalescing into 

major confederations. The first was under the leadership of Zinnum of Shu- 

and included the cities of Nippur, Girkal, Kazallu, and the Elamites. The 

>nd was headed by Ishbi-Irra, including Eshnunna, Kish, and Borsippa. Initially 

num's confederation seems to have been victorious, capturing Eshnunna, Kish, 

I and driving their kings into temporary exile. In year 12 {2006}, 

i It l.i campaigned northward, decisively defeating the combined army of 

1 1 1 1 1 1 of Subartu and Kindattu of Elam, thereby establishing himself as the 

ni ■ military power in central Mesopotamia (R3/2:434; PH 6-7). In the vola- 

ituation of the collapsing kingdom of Ur, thrones could be quickly won and 

based on a single battle, while alliances shifted in favor of the current winner. 

successful Ishbi-Irra thus quickly became the champion of Sumerians against 

unites, Hurrians, and Amorites. 

I ollowing this victory, Ishbi-Irra was able to restore his former allies to their 
"Mies as vassals, thereby establishing hegemony the region. 

Ishbi Irra took captive Zinnum, lord (ensi) of Subartu, plundered Khamazi 
i nd returned Nur-akhum, lord of Eshnunna, Shu-Enlil, lord of Kish, and 
Puzur-Tutu, lord of Bad-Ziabba each to his own place (OBLTA 23). 

nimbly "returning" each of these rulers to their thrones was not an act of 
rlHrss generosity, but a ritual of vassalization (PH 6). 

I he Elamites, although part of the coalition defeated by Ishbi-Irra, were by no 
M ins decisively crushed. The following year {2005} they besieged and con- 
I red Ur, bringing to an end any semblance of the old order. This propelled 
Mi 1 1 i.i, now the dc facto protector of Sumerian civilization, into a lengthy war 
nli the Klamites. In 2002 |Ylo|, in alliance with Nur-Ahum of Eshnunna, 
lira Limn lu'd .in .hi .ii k against I ui" Kindattu of the Rlaniites (IYN 16; PH 7). 
ii against I li< I'.laimtrs was piohahh ongoing loi several years, culminating 



in 1992 {Y26}, when "Ishbi-Irra the king brought down by his mighty weapon 
the Elamite who was dwelling in Ur" (IYN 20). His victories over the Elamites 
are celebrated in the poem, "Ishbi-Irra and Kindattu" (PH 6). 10 For this campaign 
Ishbi-Irra also allied himself with Abda-El, the Chief of the Amorites of central 
Mesopotamia; a document describing the dividing of Elamite booty survives, in 
which "890 sheep and goat skins for wrapping silver [were given] as gifts for tin 
Amorites when Elam was defeated" (PH 10). In the next several years the struggle 
against the Elamites continued in southern Mesopotamia, until finally "Ur wa\ 
made safe in its dwelling place" in 1987 {Y31} (IYN 21). Thus, by the end of his 
reign Ishbi-Erra had caused Isin to replace the devastated Ur as the dominant 
military power in south-central Mesopotamia and the new champion of Sumerian 
civilization. He had forestalled the Amorite advance, driven out the Elamites from 
Sumer and avenged the sack of Ur. Ishbi-Irra 's victory, however, was not absolute 
Both Elamites and Amorites were still powerful, and much of Sumer was still 
independent of Isin (M = CAM 109a). 

Successors to Ishbi-Irra {1985-1 787} u 

Throughout much of the subsequent Isin-Larsa period our major source ol 
information about military affairs is year names. It was the practice in Mesopota 
mia to name each year after a major event. Frequently these are religious — a great 
festival or the dedication of statue. Year names are also often linked with buildine 
programs of temples, canals, or fortresses. Military victories are another majoi 
category of events for year names. Furthermore, vassal cities would frequently use 
the year names of their overlord; thus, by seeing what city is naming its years by 
which king's year name, we can begin to see patterns of dominance and vassalage 
It must be emphasized, however, that year names do not record all major events or 
military campaigns. Each year has only one name, and if a great military victory 
was won and a great temple built, the year may be named after the temple, and the 
military victory, however significant, could go completely unrecorded. By care 
fully collating the data from year names and royal inscriptions, Douglas Frayne has 
analysed the details of the shifting fortunes of the city-states and kingdoms of* 
south-central Mesopotamia during the next two centuries. 12 

The successors to Ishbi-Irra did not record inscriptions of continued militaix 
offensives; most of their year names focus on ritual activities. This is characteristic 
of most of Mesopotamia during this period. Although warfare continued una 
bated, military affairs cease to be a significant part of ritual activities that were the 
focus of royal art and inscriptions. A few elements of Isin's later military history 
can be gleaned from the sparse sources. Shu-ilishu {1984—1975} was content to 
improve the fortifications of Isin (IYN 23), which continued to be maintained l> 
subsequent kings (IYN 29—30, 32, 41). We are aware of one major campaign n 
the 1950s, when the city of Nippur was attacked and sacked by an unknown 
enemy. Iddin-Dagan {1974-1954} regained control ol die utv, going to gie.ii 
expense to rebuild the temples ol this impoitant iinnl i entei liy l n |() Ism 



nuance in Sumer was declining (CAM 109b); the northern cities were 

red by another Amorite dynasty known as Marad-Kazallu after their twin 

while at the same time another Amorite dynasty at Larsa was expanding 

• nd (see pp. 163—6). For the most part the kings of Isin were content 

1 1 1 retain control of their slowly dwindling kingdom by building fortifica- 

IYN 23, 29, 30, 32, 41). Only Erra-imitti of Isin recorded some type of 

i nack: around year 1865, when he "destroyed the fortifications of Kazallu" 

M diat time was in the hands of Babylon (IYN 32). By 1800 Isin was a 

N power in Mesopotamia, flanked by the mighty Babylon to the north and 

DO the south; in 1794 it was conquered by its great rival Rim-Sin of Larsa; by 

I l.unmurabi absorbed Isin into his expanding empire (see pp. 172-7). 

The Kingdom of Larsa {c. 2000-1762} 


Items to have become independent under the Amorite warlord Naplanum 

• I i 2005} during the period of the decline of Ur. We have little information 

i lor the next 70 years, during part of which it may have been a vassal of 

I irsa's ascent to military eminence began under Gungunum {1932-1906}, 

hi his early military career securing his south-eastern flank by campaigns 

i he Elamite provinces of Bashimi {1930, Y3} and Anshan {1928, Y5} 

7). He thereafter turned his attention to the kingdom of Isin, conquering 

| of Ur from Isin by 1923 {Y10I, and taking the title "king of Ur" 

15) In subsequent years he campaigned up the Kishkattum canal; in 1914 

by the order of [the gods] An, Enlil and Nanna, the army of Malgium was 

ved by the weapons [of Larsa]" (LYN 9). His ultimate triumph was his 

i of the supreme cultic center Nippur from Isin by 1911 {Y22} (R4:114, 

10; FSW 21—2), an ideological victory, allowing him to use the title "king of 

md Akkad" (R4:115, 118), thereby proclaiming his nominal supremacy in 

►otamia. Many of his successors continued to use this title. Gungunum was 

i. live iti fortifying his domain, constructing the "great gate of Ur", and walls 

i .md Ka-Geshtinanna (LYN 9-10). 

u the same time that Larsa was expanding in the south, an Amorite warlord, 

Sh.ulum, founded the kingdom of Kazallu (Kazallu-Marad) northwest of Isin 

I ..i/allu-Arahtum canal. Although almost no details of this kingdom are 

n ii appears that the five Amorite kings of this dynasty conquered all the 

"ii the central Euphrates from Kazallu to Marad, which became the twin 

it iU o! the state (FSW 23). In roughly this same period a third Amorite warlord 

I Manana founded a small kingdom north-east of Isin based on the city-states 

ii id Akusum, to which Kish was added by king Halium (R4:660-7). 

ough these victories of Larsa, Kazallu, and Manana, the balance of power in 

itamia shifted dramatically; the previously predominant Isin was reduced to 

I iir-dom. 

Ihe military chaos of the period is evocatively described in an inscription of 

I In H 1 Hi} 1 ol M.ilsMiim "At thai nine .ill the land in its entirety came down, 



made a great clamor, and performed an evil deed" (R4:670). The plight of the 
petty ruler of a small city-state during this period is movingly expressed in an 
inscription by Ashduni-Yarim of Kish. 

When the four quarters [of the whole world] became hostile against me, I 
made battle for eight years. In the eighth year my adversary was turned to clay 
[= died?]. My army was reduced to three hundred men. When the god 
Zababa, my lord, made a favorable judgment for me and the goddess Ishtar, 
my lady, came to my help, I took some food to eat and went on an expedition 
of only a day. But for forty days I made the enemy land bow down to me. I 
built anew the wall [of Kish called] Inuh-Ilum. (R4:654— 5) 

Many kings of small threatened city-states must have had similar experiences during 
these internecine wars. 

The death of the expansionist king Gungunum of Larsa {1906} allowed Isin to 
launch a temporary counter-offensive under Ur-ninurta {1923-1896}, who 
recaptured Nippur and several other cities on the Kishkattum canal. Ur-ninurta s 
offensive was finally stopped around the city of Adab by Abisare of Larsa {1905— 
1894}, who "defeated the army of Isin with his weapons" in 1896 {Y9} (LYN 
13). Thereafter Larsa again took to the offensive against Isin under Sumu-El 
{1893-1865}. Expansion against the well fortified heartland of Isin proved diffi- 
cult. He claimed victory over the army of Kazallu {1890} and Kish {1883} (LYN 
16, 18, 19), but strategically decided to attempt to bypass and surround Isin. His 
most innovative strategy was economic. By conquering the small town of Eduru- 
Nanna-isa on the canal north of Isin, Sumu-El gained control of Isin's water sup- 
ply. However, his construction of a dam in an attempt to cut off the irrigation 
water proved unsuccessful (FSW 23-5). 

During the reign of Sumu-El two new players emerged on the political scene 
in southern Mesopotamia: Uruk and Babylon. It is not certain if Uruk had been ;i 
vassal of Larsa during the late 1900s, but by 1889 it is clearly an independent city-state, 
which Sumu-El of Larsa claims to have defeated (LYN 14, 16). It may have become 
independent some years earlier under its first two Amorite warlords, Alila-haduin 
and Sumu-kanasa (R4:439). An exact chronology for the dynasty cannot be 
established, but at the height of its power in the 1870s it ruled over Kisurra and 
Darum (R4:460), and briefly controlled Nippur. The rise of Babylon had much 
greater long-term implications for the future of Mesopotamia, and will be dis 
cussed below. Thus, by the mid-nineteenth century, military power in Mesopota 
mia was fragmented between half a dozen different Amorite-controlled city-states. 

The military history of Larsa during the coming decades is only fragmentarih 
recorded in the year names. These were decades of low-level internecine warfare 
in which the kings of Larsa claimed several victories, but no major shifts in ili> 
balance of power seem to have occurred. Sin-iddinam { 1 848 I S42 ) claimed to ha\< 
defeated Babylon in 1845 (LYN 24), and Elam in L843 (1 YN 24). Sm iqisham 
{1839—1836} seemed to feel under military pressure, fm In identifier] larsa in 

I hi 


I 837 (LYN 28), after which he claimed to have defeated "Uruk, Kazallu, the army of 
the land of Elam and Zambia king of Isin" (LYN 29). Overall, however, Larsa seemed 
generally in decline and on the defensive until the usurpation of Kudur-Mabuk. 

Kudur-Mabuk {c. 1850-1834} and Warad-Sin {1834-1824} 

Kudur-mabuk was an Amorite warlord operating in southern Mesopotamia in the 
mid-nineteenth century, probably as an ally or vassal of Larsa. Late in the reign of 
■ ili-Adad of Larsa, the king of Kazallu invaded and defeated Larsa. Sili-Adad seems 
1 1 > have not been able to offer effective resistance, at which point Kudur-Mabuk 
usurped the throne to defeat the invaders and save the city. He "gathered the 
M attered [Amorite] people and put in order their disorganized troops, [he] made 
the land peaceful, [he] smote the head of its foes . . . [and] smashed all the enemies 
[of the Amorite tribes and Larsa]" (R4:220). He not only drove the king of 
Kazallu from Larsa but captured and sacked his capital: 

Kudur-Mabuk, father of the Amorite land . . . [with Warad-sin, his son] smote 
the army of Kazallu and Muti-abal in Larsa and Emutbala, [and] by the decree 
of the gods Nanna and Utu seized Kazallu, tore down its wall, and made it 
submit. (R4:206-10; LYN 31) 

Thereafter he continued his victories in central Mesopotamia: 

King Kudur-Mabuk . . . by the supreme decree of the gods Enlil, Ninurta, 
Nanna, and Utu, having conquered SiUi-Eshtar [king of Mashkan-shapir] . . . 
(brought him] captive in a hand-stock, in the main courtyard of the Gagis- 
shua, the temple of the goddess Ninlil, striding with his foot placed on Silli- 
Eshtar's head. (R4:266-7) 

Kudur-Mabuk thus not only saved Larsa from conquest, but launched Larsa 
Into a second period of several decades of expansion and military predominance. 
i le was apparently quite old when he became king of Larsa, and he left much of 
k actual governing in the hands of his son Warad-Sin {1834-1824}, who served 
I CO-ruler. When Warad-Sin ascended the throne in his own right it was as king 
I .ill southern Mesopotamia, including "Ur, Larsa, Lagash, and the land of 
I. nulla" (R4:202-6). In 1830 Warad-Sin added Zabaiam (LYN 32) and in 1829 
Hppur to his domain. In his tenth year Warad-Sin renovated the monumental 
• ills of Ur (R4:236-43) and other cities (R4:253). He was succeeded as king of 
I arsa by his brother Rim-Sin. 

Rim-Sin {1822-1763} 14 

H mi Sin's sixty year reign is the longest in Mesopotamia!! history (though it is 
ilw.irfeil hy IVpy II of'l^ypts m( mliblc ninety fom J 2300 2206}). Militarily 


he led Larsa to predominance in southern Mesopotamia, and lived to see the loss 
of his entire kingdom to Hammurabi of Babylon (see p. 176). We have little 
military information for his early reign, but the supremacy of Larsa was challenged 
in 1808 {Y14} by a coalition of most of the major kings of Mesopotamia (LYN 
44), which Rim-Sin claims to have defeated. He . . . 

smote with weapons the army of Uruk, Isin, Babylon, Rapiqum and Sutium, 
seized Irnene, king of Uruk [in that battle,] and put his foot on his [Irnene's] 
head as if he were a snake. [He captured] the various cities of the land of 

Uruk The booty, as much as there was, of the various cities of the land of 

Uruk which I smote, I brought to Larsa. (R4:285) 

The defeat of this coalition and the fall of Uruk left him pre-eminent in the 
south. In subsequent years he captured a number of small cities, expanding his 
power northward: "by the decree of the 'great mountain' [Enlil] he conquered the 
city ... the city Bit-Shu-Sin, the city Imgur-Gibil, Durum, Kisurra and Uruk - 
their kings and their lands he overthrew, and tore down their walls" (R4:291; 
LYN 44-9). In year 20 {1802} he took the important cult center of Nippur, giv- 
ing him great religious prestige (R4:270). 

There followed a confusing five-year struggle with Babylon for control of Isin 
{1797-1792) in which the city seems to have changed hands several times. In 1792 
{Y30}, "the true shepherd Rim-Sin with the help of the mighty weapon of An, 
Enlil and Enki, had Isin, the royal place, and its inhabitants - whose life he spared - 
taken, and he made great his fame" (LYN 60). The city was held only until 1786, 
when "Uruk and Isin were conquered" by Hammurabi (ANET 270). At this 
point Rim-Sin was probably in his eighties and no longer seems to have been ai i 
active campaigner; we have little evidence from the records of Larsa of major 
military campaigns, though Larsa appears as a participant in the wars described in 
the Mari archive. In the coming decades Larsa took part in the great six-wav 
struggle for ascendancy in Mesopotamia (see pp. 173-7), not so much as a serious 
contender but as a major ally who could shift the balance of power in favor of one 
coalition or the other. In 1763 Hammurabi attacked his former ally, captured Larsa 
after a siege of four or five months (L 150-7), and incorporated the country into 
his kingdom (see p. 176). 

The Old Assyrian Kingdom {2300-1741} 


The city-state ofAshur before Shamshi-Adad {2300-1 814} 16 

The city ofAshur - from which the name Assyria derives - lay in northern Mesop< > 
tamia in the land known to the Sumerians in the third millennium as Subartu. 1ml 
is known of the military history of Assyria before the rise of Shamshi-Adad. I h 
city-state had been founded by at least 2400 (OAC 28). 1 atei traditions, .is ram 
ded in the Assyrian King-lists, 17 remember "seventeen I me ■■ lm lived m lent 



referring to the traditional Aniorite nomadic ancestors of Shamshi-Adad (AR 1:1). 
The names of the first twelve of these kings bear remarkable parallels to the names 
of the ancestors of Hammurabi, indicating that the Amorite warlords who took 
control of both Assyria and Babylon were probably from related branches of one 
Amorite tribe (AR. 1:1; OAC 36-7). These nomads are followed by another list of 
1L ten kings whose fathers are known", but whose names are not confirmed by any 
mscriptional evidence (AR 1:4); these rulers also seem to be the ancestors of 
Sliamshi-Adad, but not early rulers of Assyria (see p. 168). 

This archaic section of the Assyrian King-list has no contemporary confirma- 
u on. Instead, two inscriptions indicate that, in the late third millennium, Ashur 
s as controlled by Akkad under Manishtushu {2269—2255} (Al:8), and later by Ur 
1 1 1 under Amar-Sin {2046-2038} (Al:9), and presumably by other southern rulers 
■ho did not leave inscriptions. On the other hand, archaic Ashur was not always 
lominated by foreign kings. During this period one apparently independent ruler, 
liiti, dedicated booty from his victory over Gasur (Nuzi) to the goddess Ishtar 
'A 1:7; OAC, 31-2). 

Beginning about 2015 a dozen kings - numbers 26 to 38 on the Assyrian King-list - 

ne also confirmed from sparse inscriptional evidence (AR 1:5-18, Al:ll— 46). 

i he Assyrian kings began marking their independence from Ur III at this time by 

proclaiming in their stylized inscriptions, "[the god] Ashur is king, [the mortal 

filler] is XXX, vice-regent of [the god] Ashur" (Al:13, 21); the title 'Vice-regent 

'i\ik) ofAshur" is used by all Assyrian kings of this period for whom inscriptions 

iiivive. Despite their great fame and military power in later times, the original 

\ Syrian kingdom was merely one city-state among many in Mesopotamia, with 

<< particular military importance. 

The rise of Assyria to significance began under Puzzur-Ashur {c. 1970- 

' 10} , 18 who founded a dynasty lasting over a century- and-a-half {c. 1970—1 809} 

u i ml the usurpation by Shamshi-Adad (ANE 1:82). As is typical of this age, the 

I t majority of the inscriptions of this dynasty deal with religious affairs and 

tuple building, giving us little military information. The major exception to this 

rule is an inscription by Ilu-shumma {c. 1920—1906}, who claims: 

I established the freedom of the Akkadians and their children. I purified their 
< Opper. I established their freedom from the border of the marshes and Ur and 
Nippur, Awal, and Kismar, Der of the god Ishtaran, as far as the city Ashur. 
(A 1 :18) 

rhis text has been interpreted by some to imply a major military expedition or 

feme type of political hegemony over southern Mesopotamia. However, Larsen 

1 1 ii crp retetl the "freedom" (addurarum) as referring to economic freedom from 

■ nils on the textiles and tin trade in an attempt to establish a monopoly on that 

from Mesopotamia to Anatolia (see pp. 290-1). 19 

I In successor was his son Erishum I {1906-1867}, for whom a 

i ol inscriptions survive, again with im fortunately only incidental military 



references which provide no information on campaigns. A blessing in a temple 
inscription asks that the god Ashur "give [the king] sword, bow and shield", 
(Al :21), perhaps indicating the major weapons of an Assyrian warrior of the period. 
Erishum also improved the walls of Ashur "from the Sheep Gate to the People's 
Gate; I made a wall higher than the wall my father had constructed" (Al:22; AR 
1:11; OAC 60-3), indicating ongoing maintenance of fortifications. The military 
strength of the terrain of the city of Ashur was praised in a metaphorical descrip- 
tion of the god Ashur: "Ashur is like reed swamps that cannot be traversed, terrain 
that cannot be trodden upon, canals that cannot be crossed" (Al:21). During this 
period the Assyrians were noted as great merchants on the Tin-Road to Kanesh in 
Anatolia, where they founded a number of merchant colonies. The military 
implications of this are discussed in Chapter Eleven. 

Assyrian kings in the nineteenth century {1906-1814} 

Assyrian military history in the nineteenth century is only fragmentarily known, 
The Assyrian King-list and royal inscriptions (AR 1:16-18; Al:39-46) provides 
the names of five kings: Ikunum, Sargon I, Puzur- Ashur II, Naram-Sin, and Eri- 
shum II. The precise dates of these rulers are not known because that portion of 
the document is damaged, and the royal inscriptions provide no information on 
military campaigns. 

The rise of Shamshi-Adad {1832/ 1809-11 7 6} 20 

The two centuries of fragmentation and anarchy in Mesopotamia following the fall 
of Ur culminated in the rise of two great Amorite warlords, both of whom were 
nearly successful in reuniting Mesopotamia. These were Shamshi-Adad of Assyria 
and Hammurabi of Babylon. These two rulers would lay the foundations for the 
fluctuating military and cultural predominance of Assyria or Babylon over Meso- 
potamia for the next 1300 years. Shamshi-Adad was not ethnically Assyrian, and 
did not begin his reign as ruler of Assyria. Although later Assyrian kings declared 
Shamshi-Adad their predecessor (CS 1:464), he was, in fact, an Amorite usurper. 
The Assyrian King-list begins with "seventeen kings who lived in tents" - the 
Amorite nomadic ancestors of Shamshi-Adad - followed by "ten kings whose 
fathers are known", who appear to be Amorites who had infiltrated into Meso 
potamia perhaps beginning around the time of the fall of Ur III {2005}. This 
portion of the King-list ends with the brother and father of Shamshi-Adad (CS 
1:463-4). His grandfather, Yaskur-El (or Yadkur-El) {c. 1850} may have been the 
Amorite ruler of the city-state of Zaralulu (Tel al-Dhibai) - one of dozens of such 
petty Amorite warlords during this period (PH 62-3). 

Shamshi-Adad's father, Ila-kabkabu {c. 1850-1832}, was the Amorite ruler of 
the city-state of Terqa 21 on the middle Euphrates, and engaged in ongoing wai 
with Mari. Their armies fought at least one major battle in \vhi< h "many soldier. 
of [Ila-kabkabu 1 fell and so did those of [king| Yalulim I mi |nl M.ifi|". prolubh 



indicating that the battle was a draw (PH 70). Ila-kabkabu, however, was victor- 
ious in another battle, conquering the city-state of Suprum, only a day's march 
from Mari (PH 66-69). It is in this situation that Shamshi-Adad appears on the 
scene in 1832. 

The Assyrian King-list provides a laconic description of the rise of Shamshi- 

Shamshi-Adad [I], son of Ilu-kabkabi: In the time of Naram-Sin [king of 
Assyria] he went to Kar-Duniash [i.e. Babylon]. In the eponymy of Ibni- 
Adad, Shamshi-Adad marched out from Kar-Duniash [in Babylonia]. He 
seized the town of Ekallatum [near Ashur]. He stayed in Ekallatum for three 
years. In the eponymy of Atamar-Ishtar, he marched out from Ekallatum. He 
removed [the Assyrian king] Erishum [II], son of Naram-Sin, from the throne 
[of Ashur]. He seized the throne [of Ashur]. He ruled as king [of Ashur] for 
thirty-three years [1809-1776]. (ANE 1:86) 

Beyond this, the background to Shamshi-Adad's early life is quite obscure. A 
t imnber of different interpretations have been offered. 

A crucial problem related to the rise of Shamshi-Adad is the question of whe- 
ther there are two separate rulers named Naram-Sin, or only one. The basic pro- 
Mem is that a king named Naram-Sin was ruling in both Eshnunna and Ashur at 
i lie same time. Is this a single person, or two people with the same name? If it is a 

ingle person, did Naram-Sin of Eshnunna conquer Ashur, 22 or did Naram-Sin of 

\shur conquer Eshnunna? 23 A third scenario posits two contemporary kings, both 
u. imed Naram-Sin, one the ruler of Eshnunna and one of Ashur (PH 80-7). 
1 obviously the data is both insufficient and ambiguous, and does not allow a cer- 
■ i in reconstruction; I will follow the interpretation that there were two distinct 
I ulers named Naram-Sin. 

Shamshi-Adad's personal reign did not begin auspiciously. His initial years, 
roughly 1832-1814, were spent as a minor prince at Terqa, where he was engaged 
in internecine wars with other petty princes. The documentation for this period is 
fragmentary, but Shamshi-Adad is mentioned being involved with fighting his 
neighbors on several occasions (PH 80), not always successfully. In 1831 he was 
defeated by nomadic brigands known as the Lullum, who were considered 

i i linmals" (PH 65) and who had been marauding for some time throughout the 

ountryside (PH 80), indicative of the anarchy of the age. 

Initially a tense peace treaty was formulated between Shamshi-Adad and his 
Bios! powerful neighbor, Yahdun-Lim of Mari {1820—1796}, who had earlier 
been at war with Shamshi-Adad's father Ila-kabkabu. 

Shamshi-Adad . . . and Yahdun-Lim [king of Mari] . . . took a grave oath 
between them by the got! jNergalj, and Shamshi-Adad never committed a sin 
against Yahdun I im |i v he followed the treaty]. It is Yahdun-Lim who 
committed ,i sin .ig.unsi Sh.uusln Ad.ul |by breaking the treaty).... [The god 



Nergal] went at the side of Shamshi-Adad and punished [Yahdun-Lim] so that 
[Shamshi-Adad's] servants killed [Yahdun-Lim in battle]., [Nergal] decided 
to . . . turn over the city of Mari and all the banks of the Euphrates to the 
hand [of Shamshi-Adad, who] assigned his son [Yasmah-Addu in 1796] to the 
lordship of Mari; thereafter, [Yasmah-Addu] built for [Nergal] an everlasting 
temple [at Mari]. (PH 68) 

Apparently Yahdun-Lim's "sin against Shamshi-Adad" had been to renew the 
war against Shamshi-Adad in alliance with Naram-Sin of Eshnunna. In this war 
Shamshi-Adad was defeated and ousted from the throne of Terqa around 1814, 
and his former domain was divided between his two enemies (PH 84). Thereafter 
Shamshi-Adad fled to his distant Amorite relative Apil-Sin of Babylon, the 
grandfather of Hammurabi. 

Presumably Shamshi-Adad arrived in Babylon around 1814 with a band of 
Amorite warriors who had served with him at Terqa. Always on the lookout for 
trained mercenaries, Apil-Sin enlisted this warband, giving them land in the Kar- 
Dunaish area of northern Babylonia. Around 1812 some type of crisis left Ekalla- 
turn vulnerable, and Shamshi-Adad grasped the opportunity, taking his warband - 
either under instructions from his overlord Apil-Sin of Babylon, or perhaps 
entirely on his own initiative — and conquered Ekallatum, where he established 
himself as an independent ruler. After three years securing his base of power there, 
he captured Ashur around 1809. 

Shamshi-Adad the Assyrian {1809-1 77 6} 24 

With the conquest of Ashur, Shamshi-Adad was in a position to become a serious 
military force in Mesopotamia. By this time military power in Mesopotamia was 
divided into eight major kingdoms, involved in rapidly shifting alliances and bal 
ances of power politics: Ashur, Babylon, Eshnuna, Larsa, Elam, Mari, and Aleppo 
and Qatna in Syria. During the next twenty-five years Shamshi-Adad dominated 
the military scene in Mesopotamia like a colossus. 

Shamshi-Adad's first order of business was to deal with Yahdun-Lim of Mari, 
who had been at war with Shamshi-Adad's father, and who had broken a treaty with 
Shamshi-Adad himself (PH 68). Yahdun-Lim's kingdom of Mari controlled die 
Middle Euphrates and dominated the great nomadic Amorite tribes, giving him a 
good source of warlike mercenaries (PH 93—9). Shamshi-Adad began by encroaching 
on the territory of Abi-Samar, a vassal of Yahdun-Lim, who pleaded with his 
overlord to make peace or come to his assistance (PH 106—7). With twelve vassal 
kings by his side, Yahdun-Lim fought a great battle with Shamshi-Adad, but was 
disastrously defeated (PH 107); Assyria thereafter overran much of the domain of 
Mari. In the midst of the crisis Yahdun-Lim was deposed by his son Sumu-Yama, win > 
busied himself fortifying his land against further incursions by Shamshi-Adad. Sun n i 
Yama himself was assassinated by one of his own ministers, possibly .it Shamshi 
Adad's instigation (PH 109-10); Mari quickly surrendered to Slumshi Ad. id \ 17 ( >f» J 



With the fall of Mari, Shamshi-Adad now ruled northern Mesopotamia from the Tigris 
to the Euphrates, and established three provinces. In the center he reigned person- 
ally from his new capital at Shubat-Enlil (Tell Leilan, EA 3:341-7) in the Khabur 
triangle of north-eastern Syria. His eldest son Ishme-Dagan ruled from the ori- 
ginal capital at Ekallatum in Assyria, and was in charge of the frontier with the 
lurukkiean Highlanders (who had replaced the Gutians in the Zagros mountains in 
vestern Iran), and the rival city-state of Eshnunna. His younger and inexperienced son 
Yasmah-Adad {1796-1776} ruled from Mari as viceroy, in charge of Syrian and 
\niorite nomadic military affairs. Shamshi-Adad, of course, was in ultimate command 
-I the empire, and sent numerous letters to his sons training them and instructing 
| hem in imperial strategy; many of these letters survive in the Mari Archive, 
fleeting the character of the great warlord, and his imperial policies (ARM 1-6)' 
In Syria Shamshi-Adad claims to have marched to the sea and erected a victory 
monument in imitation of Sargon (C2/L3), but if so it was a short-lived raid. His 
nain strategic problem was Aleppo, where Zimri-Lim, the heir to the throne of 
Man, had fled for protection. Shamshi-Adad and his son, the viceroy Yasmah- 
\ dad, maneuvered to isolate and destroy Aleppo by a political and marriage alliance 
\ ith Qatna, the dominant power in southern Syria. As described on pp. 257-60, 
h.iinshi-Adad managed to gather a coalition of Qatna, Carchemish, and Ursha 
: n nst an isolated Aleppo, but, for unknown reasons, they failed to take the city. It 
may in part be that the Syrian kings realized that Shamshi-Adad was more of a real 
breat to them than Aleppo, and only unwillingly participated in the anti- Aleppo 
mpaigns. Sumu-Epuh of Aleppo {1810-1780} played the diplomatic game 
lasterfully, forming a coalition with Shamshi-Adad's enemies in the south and 
lit, including Sutean and Turukkean nomads, to attack him from those directions 
'2/1:3; PH 114-47). The final disruption of Shamshi-Adad's hopes m the west, 
however, may have come from a plague which ravaged Mari at this time (PH 147-52).' 
On the eastern frontier Shamshi-Adad's son and viceroy Ishme-Dagan faced a 
■ ies of four enemies: Turukkean highlanders to the north-east, Eshnunna to the 
I i, Elam to the south-east, and Babylon and Larsa to the south. Babylon, with 
the longest border with Shamshi-Adad, seemed most intimidated by Assyrian 
power. Alliances m the east were unstable and opportunistic, with kingdoms 
stacking Assyria at one time and allying with it at another. Overall, Shamshi-Adad 
tptured Qabra and Arrapha in the north-east (PH 181-5), but was forced to 
impaign regularly in the Zagros against both recalcitrant city-states and Tur- 
ilkean highlanders; although he was generally victorious, the Turukkeans proved 
^tractable in their mountain highlands, and desultory warfare continued on that 

'" throughout most of his reign (PH 186-235). At his death, Shamshi-Adad was 

■gemon of Mesopotamia, but surrounded by marginally subdued enemies. 

Ishme-Dagan of Assyria {1780-1741} 

I he death of Shamshi engendered an immediate military crisis, as recalci- 
trant vassals and barely subdued ninnies lose up almost simultaneously to achieve 



independence and revenge. Although Ishme-Dagan was a competent ruler, he- 
lacked the skill and aura of invincibility of his father, and was unable to retain 
control of the empire. The most disastrous event was the restoration of Zimri-Lim 
to the throne of Mari with the assistance of the king of Aleppo {1776}, resulting 
in the loss of the western portion of the empire (see pp. 261-3). Thereafter, all the 
surrounding kings made common cause against Ishme-Dagan, and his empire was 
whittled away during the coming years by Eshnunna, Mari, and Hammurabi of 
Babylon, until he was left with only the enclave around Ashur on the upper Tigris. 
The Old Assyrian kingdom had lasted less than two generations. 

The Old Babylonian Empire {1894-1595} 

Tfie Foundation of the Old Babylonian Empire {1894-1793} 25 

In the third millennium, Babylon was a minor city, never playing a major political 
role. Its rise to importance occurred in the years of anarchy following the collapse 
of Ur III. As with most other cities in Mesopotamia, power in Babylon fell into 
the hands of an Amorite clan under the leadership of Sumu-abum {1894-1881}. 
Sumu-abum apparently exercised some type of suzerainty over nearby Sippar, 26 as 
well as being chief of several surrounding Amorite clans (PH 28-31). His son 
Sumu-la II {1880-1845} permanently annexed Sippar and rebuilt its walls, which 
may have been damaged in his conquest. The next three successors 27 slowly added 
other nearby city-states by diplomacy or conquest until, in 1792, at the ascension 
of Hammurabi, Babylon controlled most of central Mesopotamia, including Dil- 
bat, Sippar, Kish, and Borsippa (M = CAM 109d). Their most important victory 
during this period was the defeat of the rival Amorite kingdom of Marad/Kazal- 
lus, which controlled the central Euphrates basin. 

Hammurabi {11 '92-11 SO} 28 

As one of the great conquerors and cultural figures of ancient Mesopotamia, 
Hammurabi of Babylon was the first ruler to reunite Mesopotamia in the almost 
250 years since the fall of Ur III in 2005. The military aspects of his reign can be 
divided into three periods: early {1792-1776}, middle {1776-1764}, and late 

In the first decade of Hammurabi's forty-three-year rule {1792-1781}, Baby- 
lon remained a relatively minor player in Mesopotamian international affairs, and 
was quite likely a vassal, at least nominally, of Shamshi-Adad of Assyria. There are 
three major recorded campaigns of Hammurabi before 1764 {Y29}. The most 
important was in 1786 {Y7} when "Uruk and Isin were conquered" at the 
expense of Larsa (ANET 270), providing his kingdom with new agricultural lands 
to exploit to improve the economic base of his state. His second campaign j 1783 
Y10} focused on the Tigris south of Babylon, where "(Ik- .utiiv .mil inhabitants of 
Malgia were crushed" (ANET 270). In I lammiiuhi's I'lcu-ntli vr.u [17821 In 

I '.? 


ihb i th M' '^ H ?T ed R , aPlqUm 3nd Shal ' bl " ° n the Eu P hrateS nortl ™t of 
Babylon. More details on thus campaign are found m a letter from the Mart 

a chive in which Hammurabt claims "Shamshi-Adad forced Rap lqu m out of the 

1 afsZt aT? and ^ k t0 me - SmCe ^ ^™ s ^d 
toere a Shamshi-Adad s garrison stayed there" (CANE 2:910). It seems then 

1 Z lrtT d and H r r rabi M together and took ***** f ™ -^ 

i I otin 1 782^7' "'^ <**<-* *- as a greater threat than 

Babylon in 1 782. Eshnunna s power was thereby curtailed, and Assyria and Babylon 
■Wed joint control over the city. Y 

Of IhL7-t r^^T*'' rClgn < 1776 - 1764 } be S- af*- the death 
••Shamshi-Adad m 1776, at which point Assyria was ruled by his son Ishe-Dagan 
who was much less militarily daunting that his father. The military predominance 
.'I Assyria was quickly diluted as Hammurabi and other kings were abb- to 
undertake increasingly independent foreign policies during the rule of the inef- 
fectual Ishe-Dagan. With the death of Shamshi-Adad a new tenuous balance of 

m0 1lZU m ^ S ° POt r a betWCen MX nVak IM P lel of ^hnunna 
c ^80-1760 , Ishme-Dagan of Assyria {1780-1741 }, Zimri-Lim of Man {1776- 

61}, Siwe-paJar-huppakofElam {c. 1770-1750}, Rim-Sm of Larsa {1822-1764} 

«nd Hammurabi of Babylon {1792-1750}. In addition the city-staL of Aleppo' 

»d Qatna m Syria often played a role m Mesopotamian power politics, especil 

n relation to the affairs of Man. This military balance of power of this period I 

■i. scribed in a famous letter by Itur-Asdu to the king of Mari: 

There is no king who is strong by himself: 10 or 15 kings follow Hammurabi 
of Babylon as many follow Rim-Sin of Larsa, Ibalpiel of Eshnunna and 
Amutpiel of Qatna, while 20 kings follow Yanm-Lim of Aleppo. (ANE 1:99) 

During this early period Hammurabi's main military activities focused on 

SSsStss^rrf domam; the waUs of Sippar were particui ^ 

fortified {1768, Y2o}, and the army was used for part of the labor needs- "By 

« supreme nnght which the god Shamash gave to me, with the levy of the army 

n,y land, I ^ed the top of the foundation of the wall of Sippar wich earth until 

t was like a great mountain. I built that high wall . . . for the god Shamash" 

■ ■ II as, :^7 7 TZoT eS ^ eC ° rd rebUlldlng the WaUs ° f M ^ < 1789 > Y4} 

SU . { ]] 2 7 '? 2 il\ ^ 7, aS COnstructin g ^ fortresses, one named for the 

Dddess Laz {1787, Y6} and the other called Igi-kharsagga {1774, Y19} Most of 

other early year names are associated with digging canals to improve economic 

productivity or religious rituals (ANET 270). 

The Great War [17 65-17 63} 29 
^ filiating window on the military and diplomatic world of the eighteenth 
, ' ' I'"' ' S >"7< , <" 1 V '— '"»» t'K- Palace archive of Mari. Most of these date 
""' ,H ' ' "" l! ' llK ' s '7M. when Mari was c< uered by 



Hammurabi. 30 This period was marked by remarkably volatile and unstable alliances 
as each of the six rival kings jockeyed for position, aiding, betraying, and attacking 
each other in dizzying turnabouts of diplomacy (CAH 2/1:178—9). Heimpel has 
done a masterful job of correlating and integrating the letters into a coherent pic- 
ture of Mesopotamian warfare from 1765-1763. These letters give us our most: 
complete understanding of warfare from any period of the ancient Near East; the 
military implications of these letters are discussed in detail in Chapters Eight and 
Nine, Here I will simply outline the major military events leading to the hege- 
mony of Hammurabi. 

As noted above, with the death of Shamshi-Adad the hegemony of Assyria in 
Mesopotamia collapsed and political order reverted to an eight- way struggle for 
power between Elam, Eshnunna, Assyria, Larsa, Babylon, Mari, Aleppo, and 
Qatna, In addition to these eight major powers there were nomadic and high- 
lander tribes on the fringes of Mesopotamia, including the Hurrians in Anatolia to 
the north, Turukkeans in the Zagros mountains to the east, and Amorite tribes in 
the Syrian steppe to the west of the Euphrates. Each of these tribal groups took 
turns raiding various kingdoms, at times independently and at times as allies of one 
or more of the sedentary states. Each of the eight sedentary kingdoms played a 
machiavellian game of power-politics, formulating and breaking alliances with 
reckless abandon. The chaotic picture of fractious, anarchic warfare reflected in the 
Mari letters was probably the norm for military affairs throughout much of 
Mesopotamian military history, and gives quite a different picture than the pious 
and formulaic royal inscriptions, where the gods decree victory for a king, and it is 
so. Reality was always much more messy 

The final phase of Hammurabi's military history {1765-1750} begins with a 
crisis engendered by the growth of opposing coalitions from among the rival 
warlords. The unstable multi-kingdom balance of power of the middle period of 
Hammurabi's reign created a time of political uncertainty as alliances were formed 
and collapsed based on which king was perceived to be the closest to achieving 
hegemony. As soon as one king appeared to be nearing hegemony, everyone allied 
against him. In 1769 Mari, Babylon, and Elam allied against the powerful kingdom 
of Eshnunna, conquering that state and massacring the family of its king Ibal-pi-EI 
II (PAE 171). King Siwe-palar-huppak of Elam rightly viewed himself as the 
senior partner in this enterprise. Whereas most of the allied kings called them 
selves "brother" — indicating an alliance among equals — they referred to them 
selves as the "sons" of Siwe-palar-huppak, the coalition leader. Elam thus obtained 
the lion's share of the spoils, including the city of Eshnunna itself (PAE 168-9 
L 56-9). 

This victory gave the Elamite king 31 the hope of establishing complete hege 
mony in Mesopotamia. Hammurabi was thus faced with a crucial decision: should 
he submit to de facto vassalization to Siwe-palar-huppak, or risk a major war to 
avert the growing power of Elam. Hammurabi recognized that he was unabl< 
to risk war with Elam on his own and turned to his long standing ally Zimri-Lim 
of Mari, seeking to form an anti-Elamite coalition /mm I mi realized thai 

Hammurabi was k. a desperate position, whereas Man, quite distant from Elam 
was much more secure. As Zimn-Lim's ambassador's informed him: "Doe, my 
lord not know how badly Hammurabi king of Babylon wants to make an alliance 
m h my lord?" He therefore drove a hard bargain m the negotiations. Neither side 
really trusted the other; as Znnn-Lnn's ambassadors told him, "My lord will surely 
come to reahze how exaggerated is [Hammurabi's] information and how full of lies 
are his words-'' (CANE 2:909). But, on the other hand, neither king could hope 

survive without allies in those perilous times. Hammurabi desperately needed 
du. alhance, and m the end he got it. Allied armtes from Mar, Babyin and 

f iITt lTv r r m 7 agamSt the Elamte COaKdon m 1764 (Y30} (CAH 2/ 
.183; L 60-3). In the meantime, Siwe-palar-huppak was not Me. He marshaled 
us vassals to meet Hammurabi's advancing coalition. These included contingents 

S^SS^^ 1 (Assym) ' Gutium ' the newly vassafeed EsJL < 

When Hammurabi occupied the smaller towns of Mank 1S um and Upi in the 
former domam of Eshnunna {1764}, the outraged lung of Elam ordered Ham- 
murabi to surrender the two cities and terminate his alliance with Zimri-Lim of 

r" ^ lmmedlate T aS1 ° n by Ekm - The msis Was impounded when 
Elarmte soldiers temporarily conquered Ekallatum, Ishme-Dagans capital ren- 
dering him a vassal. Clearly Siwe-palar-huppak was intent on creating hegemony 
» Mesopotamia- Hammurabi, mustering as many troops and allies as he could 
■net in an indecisive battle with the Elamites at Upi, while the Elanntes tried to 
woo Hammurabis old adversary Rim-Sin of Larsa to their side. The Elamites 
'-used their attention on the siege of Razama in the upper Tigris basin. The siege 
went on for several months until it was finally relieved by the intervention of 
mri-Lim as al y of Babylon (L 65-78). This probably represents the height of 
unite power , for> a f ter heir fai]ure at Razama ^ ^^ Qther aties g 

I lamite coalition with Babylon and Mari. 

In 1764 the Elamite army was active against southern Mesopotamia, but was 
rongly countered by a Babyloman-Manote army on the opposite bank of the Tigris 
t Mankisum m the Diyala region. The Elamites attempted a siege of the strategic 
■ v of Hintum near Sippar, but Ishme-Dagan of Assyria joined the Man-Babylon 
Ahance and the coaktion's forces broke the Elamite siege (L 95-100). The failure and 
» a hdrawal ot the Elamites led to a revolt in Eshnunna, which threw off the Elamite 
jssaldom and installed a new independent king (L 108-9). With their imperial 
I hns m shambles, peace was made with between Elam and the coalition (L 1 10-1 1) 

1 Ins proved to be the decisive campaign for domination of Mesopotamia 
lammurabi described it, praising the gods for their assistance but conveniently 

Slhng to mention the aid of armies from Mari and Aleppo: 

Ibc leader [Hammurabi], after having defeated the army which Elam - from 
the frontier of Marhashi, also Subartu, Gutium, Eshnunna, and 

raised in masses, through the mid 

Malgi - had 

,l " 1 ''""ul.itions ..I |[|„. ,-ii,p Ml - ,,|] Sinner and 

mighty power of the great gods, re-established 

Akkad. (ANHT 270) 

I I 

I > 


Thus, according to Hammurabi's official propaganda, after his victory over Elam 
he re-established the traditional empire of Sumer and Akkad, formally declaring 
himself ruler of Mesopotamia. 

With the threat removed, the anti-Elamite coalition that once had united most 
of the Mesopotamian kingdoms began to break up, with each king pursuing an 
independent foreign policy (L 117-50). This renewed regional feuding presented 
Hammurabi with an opportunity. Hammurabi first turned on his old rival Rim- 
Sin of Tarsa, with the continued assistance of the trusting Zimri-Tim of Mari. In 
1763 {Y31} "the great gods called Hammurabi by name [through an oracle]; with 
his fetters he tied up the enemy [Rim-Sin], his weapon smote the army that was 
hostile to him, in combat he slew the evil land [of Tarsa]" (R4:338-9). His year 
name adds additional details: 

Encouraged by an oracle given by Anu and Enlil who are advancing in front 
of his army, and through the mighty power which the great gods had given to 
[Hammurabi], he was a match for the army of Emutbal [= Tarsa] and its king 
Rim-Sin . . . thereby forcing [all] Sumer and Akkad to obey his orders. 

(ANET 270) 

Hammurabi's great victory over Tarsa made him clearly the pre-eminent mili 
tary power in Mesopotamia (T 150-7). However, the victory was not without its 
cost; it was followed by the rapid creation of an anti-Babylonian coalition, as the 
remaining rulers began to see Hammurabi as the 'greatest threat to their indepen 
dence. Hammurabi's earlier victory over the Elamites in 1763 had not resulted in 
the full annexation or destruction of that defeated kingdom. While Hammurabi 
was distracted by his Tarsa campaign in 1762, king Silli-Sin of Eshnunna, th< 
Subartu (Assyria), and the Guti highlanders marshaled an army for revenge - Elam 
was notably absent from this coalition. In 1761 {Y32} Hammurabi met and 
defeated the coalition, defeating Eshnunna and conquering the land of Mankizum 

The hero [Hammurabi] who proclaims the triumphs of [the god Mardukf 
overthrew in battle with his powerful weapon the army of Eshnunna, Subartu 
(Assyria) and Gutium and was a match for the country of Mankizum and the 
country along the bank of the Tigris as far as the frontier of the countr\ 
Subartu. (ANET 270) 

During this period of intensive conquest Hammurabi was also active botli in 
strengthening the agricultural foundation of his state through irrigation worki 
(R4:341), and improving its defenses by fortifications. The walls of Sippar were 
reconstructed (R4:335), and the fortress of Dur-Sin-mnballit was built on \w 
north-western border; he "raised high a tall fortress with threat heaps of earth 
whose tops were like a mountain.... I named thai fortress Mm Sm muhallti 
abim-walidiia' [Fort Sin muhallit, father who engrndctrd m< | I' 1 • I ' \) 


Although we are largely dependent on Zimri-Tim 's archive from Mari to 
understand the history of the complex diplomatic relations between Mari and 
li.ibylon, it is clear from the overall results that Hammurabi played the machia- 

■ llian power-politics game of the age better than any of his rivals. With southern 
Mesopotamia conquered, the east subdued, and his domain secured by additional 

• \ tifications, Hammurabi turned his attention to the central Euphrates basin, 
here his major rival was the kingdom of Mari. It is not clear why Hammurabi 

Vent to war with his long-standing ally Zimri-Lim. Perhaps Zimri-Tim, fearing 

be rising power of Hammurabi, had broken the alliance. Or perhaps it was simply 
the next inevitable step in Hammurabi's move towards full hegemony in Meso- 

Otamia. At any rate, in 1761 {Y33} Hammurabi "overthrew Mari and Malgi in 

it tie . . . also made several other cities of Subartu, by a friendly agreement, obey 
Ins orders" by becoming his vassals (ANET 270). Zimri-Tim apparently remained 
OR his throne of Mari as a vassal of Hammurabi, but he remained recalcitrant and 
ichelled two years later. Hammurabi suppressed the rebellion of his former ally 

ith ruthlessness, and in 1759 {Y35}, "upon the command of the gods Anu and 
I nlil", he "destroyed Maris wall, and turned the land into rubble heaps and ruins" 

\ NET 270; R4:346). 

I he final years of Hammurabi's reign were focused on campaigns in northern 

lesopotamia and the upper Tigris valley, where the anti-Babylonian coalition was 
nil strong. "By the great power of the god Marduk Hammurabi overthrew the 
my of Sutium, Turukku, Kakmu and the country of Subartu" in 1757 {Y37} 

V NFT 270). Babylon's old rival Eshnunna was definitively destroyed in 1756 
| . &8}, after a flood had destroyed part of the city walls, perhaps intentionally 
■ i rated by Hammurabi by diverting water from the canal system (ANET 270)., In 

i last recorded campaign {1755, Y39} he again "defeated all his enemies as far as 
be country of Subartu" (ANET 270). 

The military achievement of Hammurabi was one of the greatest of the Middle 
fconze Age. Hammurabi made Babylon the center of culture of Mesopotamia, a 
talus which it would retain for over 1500 years. His achievement, however, was also 

phemeral. Since his major conquests occurred only late in his reign, he was unable 
B G h us much attention on stabilizing his new domain. Within a decade after his death 
I ns empire began to break up during the rule of his son Samsu-iluna (see pp. 181-3). 

Hammurabi and the ideal of martial kingship 

Mi hough Hammurabi's famous law code has naturally been studied mainly for its 
-I i,i I ramifications, its introduction also provides important insights into the 
martial ideology of Babylonian kings. 33 Hammurabi rules because of the destiny 
I- i (amined by the gods; his scepter and crown are bestowed upon him "by the 
wise goddess Mama" (EC 78-9). Anu and Enlil "named the city of Babylon", and 
i suMishcd "within it eternal kingship whose foundations are as fixed as heaven 
mil earth" (1 (' 7S; K 4:334, 341); his dynasty was promised an "eternal seed of 
loyalty' (I < 80). "I la i m i n ii i 1m ihr pit his prince, who venerates the gods . . . |was 




chosen] to abolish the wicked and evil", which would naturally include conquer- 
ing impious rival kings (LC 76). He is thus able to "stride through the four quar- 
ters of the world" conquering enemies until he "makes the four quarters 
obedient" to Babylon and the gods (LC 77, 80). Although he is a "warrior", 
wherever he conquers he is also a restorer and builder. He "restores the [con- 
quered] city of Eridu", "shows mercy to the [conquered] city of Larsa", "revita 
lizes the [conquered] city of Uruk", "gathers together the scattered peoples of the 
[conquered] city of Isin", and "gives life to [the conquered] city of Adab" (LC 77- 
8). He not only conquers cities, but protects them; he "shelters the people of the 
city of Malgium in the face of annihilation" (LC 79); he "sustains his people in 
crisis, [and] secures their foundations in peace in the midst of the city of Babylon 
(LC 80). Thus, Hammurabi only conquers at the command of the gods (R4:345, 
351—3, 389), and does so only to restore prosperity and order, to "spread his light 
over the lands of Sumer and Akkad" (LC 80). Obviously, much of this is sheer 
propaganda; this is especially clear in his claim that he "showed mercy to the 
[conquered] people of the city of Mari" (LC 80). In reality he sacked the city 7 in 
1759 and mercilessly destroyed it. 

Of course, Hammurabi never undertook any of his conquests on his own 
initiative. He is in all things the servant of the gods. Hammurabi is always "obe 
dient to the god Shamash", who is thus his "ally" in all his conquests (LC 77); he 
acts only "upon the command" of the gods (ANET 270; R4:332-3). He is the 
"leader of the kings [of Mesopotamia], who subdues the settlements along the 
Euphrates River [including Mari] by the oracular command of the god Dagan, his 
creator" (LC 80). 

With peace and prosperity restored to Mesopotamia, Hammurabi becomes ,i 
great temple builder "heaping up bountiful produce" and "supplying abundance" 
for the gods through donations to their temples from the plunder he has taken 
from war (LC 78). The epilogue to his law code summarizes the royal propaganda 
of the time: 

With the mighty weapons which the gods Zababa and Ishtar bestowed upon 
me, with the wisdom which the god Ea allotted to me, with the ability whn 1 1 
the god Marduk gave me, I annihilated enemies everywhere, I [thereby] put 
an end to [the] wars [that had afflicted Mesopotamia for decades], I enhanced 
the well-being of the land, I made the people of all settlements lie in safe 
pastures, I did not tolerate anyone intimidating them [through brigandage or 
threat of invasion]. The great gods having chosen me, I am. indeed the shep 
herd who brings peace, whose scepter is just. My benevolent shade is spread 
over my city [Babylon], I held the people of the lands of Sumer and Akkad 
safely in my lap. They prospered under my protective spirit, I maintained 
them in peace, with my skillful wisdom I sheltered them (LC 133).. . . I lam 
murabi, the lord, who is like a father and begetter to his people, submit n d 
himself to the command of the god Marduk, Ins lord |to t onquer the world | 
and achieved victory for the god Marduk evervw hen Eh i 'Saddened the Ik ai i 



of the god Marduk, his lord, and he secured the eternal wellbeing of the 
people and provided just ways for the land. (LC 134-5) 

The stylized imprecations at the end of the law code include a number of curses 
against anyone impudent enough to challenge Hammurabi by defacing or mod- 
ifying his inscriptions, illuminating some of the subliminal fears of military rulers 
Oi the age. Hammurabi curses his enemies with the things that all Mesopotamian 

I ings feared. The god Enlil is summoned to bring to Hammurabi's enemies "dis- 
order that cannot be quelled and a rebellion that will result in obliteration" and 

'the supplanting of his dynasty and the blotting out of his name and his memory 
in the land" (LC 136-7). The gods likewise pass judgment on the enemies, "pro- 
Bouncing the destruction of his land, the obliteration of his people, and the spilling 

■i his life force [blood] like water" (LC 137). Ea, the god of wisdom, is summoned 

I I deprive Hammurabi's enemies "of all understanding and wisdom" and to "lead 
ihem into confusion" (LC 136). Hammurabi summons the sun-god Shamash to 
"confuse [his enemy's] path and undermine the morale of his army; when divina- 
11,111 is performed for him, may he provide an inauspicious omen portending the 
uprooting of the foundation of his kinship" (LC 137-8). The war-gods Zababa, 

i I liar, and Nergal are particularly summoned to bring military disaster on Ham- 
murabi's enemies: 

May the god Zababa, the great warrior . . . who travels on [Hammurabi's] 
right side [in battle], smash the weapon [of Hammuarbi's enemy] upon the 
field of battle; may [Zababa] turn day into night for him, 34 and make his 
enemy triumph over him. May the goddess Ishtar, mistress of battle and war- 
fare, who bares [Hammurabi's] weapons [in battle] 35 . . . curse the kingship [of 
Hammurabi's enemy] with her angry heart and great fury; may she turn his 
auspicious [pre-battle] omens into calamities; may she smash his weapon on 
the field of war and battle, plunge him into confusion and rebellion, strike 
down his warriors, drench the earth with their blood, make a heap of the 
corpses of his soldiers upon the plain [of battle], and may she show his soldiers 
no mercy; as for [Hammurabi's enemy], may she deliver hirn into the hand of 
his enemies, and may she lead him bound captive into the land of his enemy 
May the god Nergal, the mighty one among the gods, the irresistible 
onslaught [in battle], who enables me [Hammurabi] to achieve my triumphs, 
burn his [Hammurabi's enemy's] people with his [NergaTs] great over- 
powering weapon like a raging fire in a reed thicket; may he [Nergal] have 
him [the enemy] beaten with [NergaTs] mighty weapon, and shatter his limbs 
like those of a clay figure. (LC 138-9) 

Mns remarkable curse is essentially an outline of the course of warfare in the Old 
Babylonian period: it begins with pre-battle divination and omens, the fight on 
ih<- battlefield, the mound of corpses, the merciless treatment of defeated enemies, 
then ( .ipuvil v. and the final n innipli oi the king. 



Middle Bronze Mesopotamian martial art 

One of the remarkable features of the Middle Bronze Age in Mesopotamia is the 
near disappearance of monumental martial art. The reason for this is not clear. It 
may be because of changes in the cultic and ritual context in which martial art was 
generally produced. Alternatively, it is possible that martial art of this period was 
generally done in the form of fresco paintings such as those at the palace of Zimri- 
Lim at Mari (SDA 275-83). If so it is likely that little of this art has survived. On 
the other hand, when we remember that only nine fragments of martial art survive 
from the militant Akkadian period, the relative lack of Middle Bronze Mesopota- 
mian martial art may simply be a matter of the failure as yet to discover any sur- 
viving remains. 

This is not to say that monumental martial art is unknown from this period. 36 
The most striking example is a fragment of a stele sometimes attributed, on rather 
flimsy grounds, to Shamshi-Adad (AAJVI §204-5; SDA 252). One side shows a 
warrior in a long ornate robe with a spear in his left hand and an axe in his right. 
He has one foot on the stomach of a fallen enemy; he is thrusting a spear into the 
man's chest while simultaneously striking him in the forehead with an axe. The 
opposite side of the stele fragment shows a triumph scene with a royal prisoner 
with his hands tied behind his back (AAM §205). An interesting feature oft 
stele is the simultaneous use of two different weapons in two-handed combat. 

The second major martial scene shows a king with an axe in one hand and a 
badly worn weapon — which appears to be a sickle-sword — in the other, striding 
over the walls of a conquered fortress and a diminutive prostrate enemy (SDA 
291c). He is followed by a soldier with a banner. One very important feature oi 
this scene is that it is the only artistic depiction of a Middle Bronze fortress. It 
shows a city wall with crenellation and a large city gate flanked by two projecting 
towers. The gate has a clearly depicted brick arch, quite similar to the Middle 
Bronze gate discovered intact at Tell Dan in Israel, which can still be seen at the 
site (ALB 208; Figure 7, p. 278). 

A third mythic scene shows a god with a long flowing robe and a triangular- 
shaped bow and quiver on his back, grasping a monster by the neck and stabbing 
him with a large bronze dagger (AAM §211; SDA 291a). Another mythic seem 
shows Gilgamesh and Enkidu trampling the prostrate Humbaba while slaying him 
with dagger and mace (AFC 482). Both of these may depict typical weapons and 
their use during the Middle Bronze period. 

Flistorical and mythic scenes from cylinder seals add to our repertoire of martial 
art from the Middle Bronze Age. These scenes can be categorized into a numbei 
of stylized scenes. The most common shows a god, goddess or king in a victory 
stance with either a curved or rectangular sickle-sword in one hand. 37 Sometimes 
the figure is trampling a prostrate enemy. 38 The smiting scene shows a king 
standing with raised axe, mace or sickle-sword about to smite a cowering enenn 
(FI §160, 541, 763). One scene shows the god or king with sickle sword in one 
hand and mace in the other (AM §157b), confirming the two handed use ol 

weapons shown in the "Shamshi-Adad" stele discussed above. A more dis 
Scene comes from Anatolia, showing a king in battle (FI §4). The king has 

liaped shield, rather similar to contemporary shields in Canaan and Syr 
hand holding the shield also holds the spear, with the head facing down. I 
kittle-axe in the other hand, and is standing on a dead enemy; a nearby 
uses an underhand thrust of a dagger. 

If one were to guess at patterns of Middle Bronze weapons use, based 
glyptic art, it would appear that the sickle-sword was the most common v 
but, based on archaeology, the sickle-sword is a relatively rare find comp 

pears, axes, and daggers, and appears largely in royal contexts (MW 1:142-3, 
see pp. 66-71). This again points to the problem of generalizing about the 
oi warfare based on mythically and ritually oriented martial art. 

Samsu-iluna {1749-1712} 39 

I or the first eight years of his reign Samsu-iluna was at peace; his year nanu 
Oil economic and religious activities. The new Pax Babylonica brought 
temporary prosperity, and Samsu-iluna celebrated his coronation by de 

freedom from taxation for Sumer and Akkad" (ANET 271). Samsu-iluna 
year {1741} is called "the year of the Kassite army" (ANET 271). The I 

Kassu) were tribal highlanders from the Zagros region, successors to the 

-utians. Kassites were eventually to succeed the Babylonians after the 
Babylon by the Hittites in 1595. They would eventually found a dynas 

ould dominate Mesopotamia from 1595-1 155. 40 At this time, howeve 
Were still highlanders from the Zagros, migrating in small groups, serving , 

enaries, or seeking opportunities for plunder in the rich cities of the Bak 

mpire. No details of this first Kassite raid are known, but Samsu-ilu 
ipparently unable to defeat them decisively. This sign of imperial weakne 

i< led a catalyst for widespread rebellion against Babylonian rule. 

I he instigator of this rebellion was Rim-Sin II of Larsa {1740-1738}, who 
overran most of southern Mesopotamia. Samsu-iluna, however, reacted vig» 

■ I- pressing the revolt and killing Rim-Sm II in 1738 {Y12} (R4:3I7, 37 ( > 

At that time I [Samsu-iluna] defeated with weapons, eight times in the 
of one year, the totality of the land of Sumer and Akkad which had b 
hostile against me. I turned the cities into rubble heaps and ruins. I n 
the roots of the enemies and evil one from the land. I made the entireh 
nation dwell according to my decree. (R4: 376-7) 

I his campaign is recounted in greater detail, beginning with the in 
ku kground in the world of the gods. 

Hie god Mnlil, great lord, whose uttei.uiee cannot he (haneed tin ■ 
that he determines i annul k iltrred looked with his |o\ful lai < 




[warrior] god Zababa, his mighty oldest son, the one who achieves his victory, 
and at the [war] goddess Ishtar, his beloved daughter, the lady whose divinity 
is not rivaled, and spoke with them happy words: "Samsu-iluna is my mighty 
untiring envoy [as king on earth] who knows how to carry out the desire of 
my heart. May you be his shining light. May your good omen occur for him. 
Kill his enemies and deliver into his hands his foes that he might build the 
wall of Kish, make it greater than it had been previously and make you dwell 
in a happy abode." 

The god Zababa and goddess Ishtar . . . raised their faces of life brightly 
towards Samsu-iluna, the mighty king [of Babylon], the valiant shepherd, the 
creation of their hands, and joyfully spoke with him: "O Samsu-iluna, eternal 
seed of the gods, one befitting kingship — Enlil has made your destiny very 
great. He has laid a commission on us to act as your guardians for your well- 
being. We will go at your right side [in battle], kill your enemies, and deliver 
your foes into your hands. As for Kish, our fear-inspiring cult city, build its 
wall, make it greater than it was previously," (R4: 385-6) 

This type of language presumably represents oracular pronouncements and 
omens from court priests and prophets. Having received a divine mandate from 
the gods, Samsu-iluna marched to defeat the rebels in southern Mesopotamia and 
restore the sacred city of Kish to Babylonian rule: 

Samsu-iluna, the capable king, the one who listens to the [oracles of the] great 
gods, was greatly encouraged by the words which the god Zababa and the 
goddess Ishtar spoke to him [through an oracle]. He made ready his weapons 
in order to kill his enemies and set out on an expedition to slaughter his foes. 
The year was not half over when he killed [the rebel king] Rim-Sin [II of 
Larsa], who had caused [southern Mesopotamia] to rebel, and who had been 
elevated to the kingship of Larsa. In the land of Kish [Samsu-iluna] heaped 
up a burial mound over him. Twenty-six rebel kings, his foes, he killed; he 
destroyed all of them. He defeated Iluni, the king of Eshnunna, one who had 
not heeded his decrees, led him off in a neck-stock, and had his throat cut. He 
made the totality of the land of Sumer and Akkad at peace, made the four 
quarters abide by his decree. At that time, Samsu-iluna, the mighty, by means 
of the force of his army built the city of Kish [in 1726 {Y24}]. He dug its 
canal, surrounded it with a moat, and with a great deal of earth made its 
foundations firm as a mountain. He formed its bricks and built its wall. In the 
course of one year he made its head rise up more than it had been before. 

Thus, Samsu-iluna portrays his acts as enforcing the decree of the gods by restor- 
ing order to Mesopotamia and rebuilding the gods' sacred city of Kish. Although 
ultimately defeated, the revolt revealed the serious potential weakness of the 
Babylonian empire. 

The suppression of the rebellion in the south was followed by a threat from the 
i lortheast Eshnunna and the highlander Kassites constantly chaffed under Babylonian 
domination, and in 1730 {Y20} Samsu-iluna . . . 

subjugated the land of Idamaraz from the border of Gutium to the border of Elam 
with his mighty weapon; he conquered the numerous people of the land of 
Idamaraz and demolished all the various fortresses of the land of Warum who had 
resisted him; he achieved his victory and made his strength apparent. After two 
months had passed, having set free and given life to the people of the land of 
Idamaraz who he had taken captive, and the troops of Eshnunna, as many prisoners 
as he had taken, he rebuilt the various fortresses of the land of Warum which 
he had destroyed and regathered and resettled its scattered people. (R4:389-90) 

Samsu-iluna's triumph, however, was short-lived. Within a few years his con- 
trol over southern Mesopotamia was again threatened. In 1721 {Y29} he lost 

ontrol over Nippur (R4:425), and by 1712 {Y38} the south was permanently lost 
to the rising power of Iluma-Ilum {c. 1735-1710}, king of the "Sealand" (or 

■ ) istal) dynasty from the coastal marshes of southern Mesopotamia. Iluma-Ilum 
managed to fend off three offensives from Babylon during his reign (C2/l:222); in 

he end the kings of Babylon were forced to acquiesce to his independence. Little 

I known of the Sealand dynasty; it ruled much of the Mesopotamia!! coastland 
under eleven known kings for two-and-a-half centuries {c. 1735-1460}, but few 
inscriptions or records survive, and almost nothing is known of its military history 

\! 243; C2/l:222, 442-3). 

Late Old Babylonian Kingdom {1712-1595} 

Mi hough the dynasty founded by Hammurabi would endure for another century, 
for all practical purposes the Babylonian empire had been reduced to central 
Iteopotarnia by the death of Samsu-iluna. Following the death of Samsu-iluna, 
Be deeds of later Old Babylonian kings are only sparsely recorded in inscriptions. 

I I is clear that the military power of Babylon was increasingly restricted during the 
- vrnteenth century. The year names of Abi-eshuh {1711-1684} mention several 

defensive campaigns against the Kassite invaders from the mountains, but no major 
i< lories in the south. Arnmi-ditana {1683-1646} was also apparently on the 
1 fcnsive, focusing on fortifications. He repaired the walls of Babylon (R4:412), 
m<l built Fort Ammi-ditana (R4:413). A fragmentary inscription by Ammi-saduqa 
I 1646-1626} claims that Babylonian power was temporarily restored in Nippur, 
• here a cult figure of the goddess Ishtar was installed (R4:426). Samsu-ditana 
! 1625-1595} was the last king of Hammurabi's dynasty. Although the details were 
m known, he was killed during the Hittite conquest of Babylon in 1595, bring- 
ing ,m end to I lammnrabi's dynasty (sec p. 301). 

riu- four centuries between the fall of Ur {2005} and the fall of Babylon 
! !v;> ! ne < lui.u in i/.vi In ,i irnur k.ihlc political and military instability in 

Is ' 



Mesopotamia. A number of quite successful warlords rose to power during this 
age - Ishbi-Irra of Ism {2017-1985}, Shamshi-Adad of Ashur {1809-1776}, and 
Hammurabi of Babylon {1792-1750} - but each of their empires rapidly collapsed 
under less talented successors. In contrast to Egypt, which emerged united and 
powerful under the New Kingdom in the Late Bronze Age, this long-term inter 
nal instability left Mesopotamia consistently vulnerable to outside invasions during 
subsequent centuries, including attacks by Elamites, Kassites, Hurrians, Amorites, 
and Hittites. Only in the ninth century under the great Assyrian warlords would 
political unity and military strength be restored to Mesopotamia. 

1 8 I 


Warfare in the age of 'Man 

Mk- most detailed textual sources we have for warfare in the Middle Bronze Age is 

extraordinary archive from Mari, which contains more than 20,000 cuneiform 

ll <lets, many of which are military dispatches from field and garrison commanders 

die king of Mari, Zimri Lim {1776-1761 }. 1 Remarkably for the ancient Near 

I ist, the military letters from Mari give us the words of actual commanders writ- 

1 1 within days or even hours of the events they are describing. Nothing is filtered 

>u >ugh the royal propaganda machines. We are, in a sense, transported into the 

lidst of Middle Bronze Age battles. 

I 'here are, however, a number of historiographical limitations and problems 

■ uh the Mari archive. First, chronologically the tablets come largely from the 

i ,n of Zimri-Lim, king of Mari, and hence cover only a narrow period of 

1 -sopotamian history. None the less, that period was one of the most militarily 

iportant and active, covering the rise of Hammurabi of Babylon {1792—1750} to 

! n]KTial predominance in Mesopotamia. Indeed, the destruction of Mari, which 

ponically preserved the clay tablets, occurred two years after Hammurabi con- 

i nnvd Mari {1759}. The archive also presents us only with the Mari perspective; 

.ire left with limited information concerning the views of their enemies. The 

hive also includes only letters to king Zimri-Tim; unfortunately his responses to 

■b commanders are included only incidentally in quotations within the letters. 

I ikewise the words of other kings, such as Hammurabi, are occasionally indirectly 

lOted in the Mari letters. 

( )ur second problem in interpreting the Mari archive is that some of the texts 

broken or damaged, leaving lacunae — gaps created by lost text. Tablets can be 

broken in a number of different ways, losing the top, bottom or one or other side 

If a particular missive; other lacunae are created by a gash in the middle. The net 

nil is that many of the letters are obscure and difficult to interpret. To the pro- 

i in of lacunae is added philological difficulties relating to uncertain grammar or 

n< aning of words. The result is that the exact meaning of many texts is often 

urn ertain. This is especially a problem in relation to technical terminology. 

Finally, we have the problem of historical contextualization. Many of the letters 
in undated, meaning we don't know whether the events in one particular letter 
milliard before m .iliei the events in another. The letters also often contain 



numerous references to unknown people and places. The result is that, although 
we know what happened, we frequently are uncertain about when it happened, 
where it happened, or who was doing what to whom. 

Trying to reconstruct military history from the Mari archive is thus rather like 
trying to reconstruct the events of the Napoleonic wars from a disorganized pile of 
often damaged and semi-legible dispatches of Napoleon's commanders to Napo- 
leon, but none of his responses. Remaining with the analogy, it is unclear if the 
battle of Waterloo occurred before or after the invasion or Russia, or if Austerlitz 
is in Germany, France, or Spain. It is also uncertain if Wellington is an ally or an 
enemy of Napoleon. Nor do we have a French dictionary — we have to make up 
our own as we go along. Fortunately, great strides have been made in recent years 
through painstaking study of the Mari letters. The recent publication of Wolfgang 
Heimpels Letters to the King of Mari has given us both a historical framework and a 
translation of many of the letters. 2 

Battle divination and martial ideology 3 

Ancient Near Eastern armies operated in a world in which belief in the super- 
natural power of the gods was an omnipresent assumption. Battles were fought and 
won by the will of the gods. The prophet of one god promised Zimri-Lim "O 
Zimri-Lim, swear that you will not neglect me, and I shall hover over you and 
deliver your enemies into your power" (ARM 10.8; MK 138). Whereas Napoleon 
claimed that "God is on the side with the big guns", the ancient Mesopotamians 
would have countered "God is on the side with the big temples". To insure that a 
king, general, or army "were operating in accordance with the will of the gods, 
Mesopotamian rulers employed diviners and prophets who would interpret the 
will of the gods. A wide range of methods were used to accomplish this. Few kings 
dared go to war without the explicit approval of the gods. 

In the Mari texts, the most important form of martial divination was extispicy 
(terturn), the ritual examination of the liver of a sacrificed animal for patterns and 
markings which were interpreted according to a complex set of rules. 4 Man 
commanders invariably consulted the diviners (barurn) before undertaking any 
major military operation; special martial diviners were assigned to accompany 
military units on campaign (L 225, 463; ASD 176—9). They were obviously 
important officers, since one is described as riding in a chariot like the generals oi 
the army (L 225). One barum seems to have been the independent commander of a 
force of several hundred men: 

Ilushu-nasir, the barum-pviest ... leads the forces of my lord. A Babylonian 
barum-priest goes with the Babylonian forces. These 600 troops are now in 
Shabazim. The bamtn-priests are now gathering omens. (ARM 2.22; WM 1 30) 

Frequently the letters give no details about divination, mentioning only that th 
omens were favorable or unfavorable (L 210 11, "Ml 1>) ( Mhei times, mm. 

precise questions were asked and specific detailed prophecies were given; examples 
of oracular responses to divination include: 

• "The king's hand will catch territory that is not his" (L 175); 

• "My lord will seize the city [he is besieging] in a hard battle" (L 221); 

• "The enemy will attack and carry off livestock" (L 175); 
"The enemy will not make an incursion [into the king's land]" (L 229); 
"Those extispicies were bad. Rebellion [in the city] was repeatedly indicated. 
I have put the [guards] of the city gates on notice about the citizens" (L 230); 
"When [the allied Babylonian soldiers] enter Mari, they will not cause rebel- 
lion to be committed and seize the city of Mari" (L 235-6); 
"This month the enemy will not move against you with his troops and his 
allies, and he will not besiege you" (L 239); 
"Zimri-Lim, do not go on the road [on campaign]! Stay in Mari!" (L 268).. 

Sometimes, alternative plans were made depending on the forthcoming results 

-I the extispicy. One commander ordered: "Make an extispicy, and if that [rebel] 

Milage still holds out at the end of the month, leave the fifty men behind [to 

I -lockade it], and depart! If the extispicies are bad, [capture the city] and take down 

his fortifications]" (L 236). On other occasions double extispicies might be taken, 

king the same question in two different ways to get confirmation, or perhaps to 

- t the answer one wanted. 

I made extispicies as follows: I asked, "If [king] Zimri-Lim cedes [the city of] 
Id to the king of Babylon, will [king] Zimri-Lim be well? ..." I made 
[extispicies] on two more lambs as follows: "If Zimri-Lim cedes Id to the king 
of Babylon, will Zimri-Lim be well? ..." My extispicies were not sound 
| indicating a negative answer]. I did [extispicy again] as follows: "If Zimri- 
Lim [does not] cede Id to the king of Babylon, will Zimri-Lim be well?" My 
extispicies were sound [indicating a positive answer]. (L 237) 

Battle could not be undertaken without favorable omens. One priest reported 
(he results of his pre-battle extispicy. He first listed the question asked, and then 
the answer derived from his divination: 

Should Sumu-Dabi, with troops few or many, however many he can readily 
equip, draw up in battle formation against Zimri-Lim, should he do battle 
with him, and be safe, defeat him, be victorious? . . . [The result of the extis- 
picy was that] he must not do battle. (L 240) 

When the result of the extispicy was favorable, the commander would carry out his 

•I in "I had extispicies done for the well-being of the troops of my lord ... and the 

r\tispi( us were sound, and the troops may move from their position" (L 216, 242). 

X " ,,ll,rI "HH^r reported "We ,uc having extispicies done now. If the god answers, 




we will do what the god says to us. May the god of our lord go by our side [into battle]!" 
(L 329) . If unfavorable omens occurred, however, the plans were generally put on 
hold. In such a situation, the commander could wait a while, and consult the 
oracles again, hoping for a better result. "I made extispicies for the well-being of 
the messengers, and they were bad, [so I did not send them]. I will make [extispicies j 
for them again, and when the extispicies have come out sound, I will dispatch 
them" (L 210). Some oracles were given as a conditional warning; an ecstatic prophet 
proclaimed, "If you do not make that [new] city gate, there will be a corpse heap [of 
the soldiers killed in battle at the gate when the city is sacked by the enemy] " (L 263) . 

When the omens were bad the king or his priests sometimes had to intervene 
ritually, by making special offerings to re-establish good relations with the gods. 
Impurity or other types of sin that could antagonize the gods had to be ritually 
purified to insure success in battle: "There is a taboo [of sin or impurity] among 
you. The [exorcists and purifiers] must wash off the taboo" (L 199). The king was 
required to expiate for sins and impurities; according to one oracle: "If my lord 
stays for seven days outside the walls [of the city] when he does his ablutions [then 
the gods will grant] well-being" (L 261, 177). In such situations, if the king per- 
sonally made sacrifice, cosmic order could be restored. One minister advised: "... 
our lord [Zimri-Lim] must come to Hanat to meet the troops, and our lord must 
perform an offering before [the goddess of] Hanat. And he must see the troops 
whom we moved and calm their hearts, which are frightened" (L 196). Bad omens 
could be changed to good omens by the king making an offering in expiation and 
taking another extispicy: "I have obtained the [sacrificial] offering that my lord 
[king Zimri-Lim] offered and whose extispicies he sent, and the god accepted the 
offering of my lord [and the omens are favorable]" (L 212). 

In addition to divination by extispicy, natural phenomena were sometimes seen 
as ominous. An eclipse of the moon caused panic among the troops (L 209). 
Eclipses were often, but not universally, associated with disaster, but it was not 
always clear for whom. In different months an eclipse might presage that "a city 
loses its population", "many troops fall", or "a defeat of the other king will hap- 
pen" (L 271). A prodigious birth of a deformed lamb was seen as ominous, 
requiring careful study by the diviners (L 510). Dreams were often thought of as 
prophetic: "Yasim-Dagan had a dream before his eyes. The dream is serious and is 
raising concern [among the soldiers]. I had an extispicy of his dream done.. . . [The 
meaning of the dream is that] my lord must give strict orders to guard the 
strongholds" (L 209). Another oracular dreamer wrote: "In my dream the allies of 
Zimri-Lim defeated Elam" (L 264). 

Oracular prophecy is also described in the Mari letters in which ecstatic pro- 
phets spoke the words of the gods from trance-like states. Sometimes such pro 
phecies were highly metaphorical and enigmatic. For example, does the prophecy 
"a wind rises against the land" (L 255) refer to a desert sandstorm or an enemy 
invasion? Others used simile prophecies: an ecstatic prophet ate a lamb alive, then 
pronounced, "A devouring will occur" (L 256), possibly an .illusion to an invading 
army consuming a land. 

The gods frequently requested specific offerings or behavior from the king. 
The prophet of the god Shamash told Zimri-Lim: 

I [the god Shamash] am the lord of the land. I requested from you [as votive 
offerings] a great throne as seat of my plenitude and your daughter [to serve as 
a priestess in Shamash's temple] - let them be rushed quickly to Sippir, city of 
life. Herewith I deliver into your hand the kings who stood against you [in 
battle]. (L249) 

( )ther prophets made independent prophecies not requested by the king: 

One "shock-head" (qammatum: an ecstatic spirit-possessed prophetess with 
disheveled hair) of [the god] Dagan of Terqa came and spoke to me as follows. 
She said: "The peace offers of the Eshnunakeans are deceit.. . . I will collect 
him [the king of Eshnuna] in the net that I knot. I will erase his city. And his 
wealth, which is from old, I will cause to be utterly defiled." (L 251) 

Ys it turned out, Eshnuna was in the end defeated by Hammurabi. 

Some oracles were very detailed, promising that the gods themselves would 
fight on the side of the king: 

I [asked the prophets]: "Will my lord [Zimri-Lim] come close to battle?" 
They [the prophets replied]: "Battle will not be done. As of the arrival [of 
Zimri-Lim] his [Ishme-Dagan's, son of Shamshi-Adad, king of Assyria] allies 
will scatter. And they will cut off the head of Ishme-Dagan, and they will 
place it under the foot of my lord [Zimri-Lim], saying, 'the troops of Ishme- 
Dagan were many. And although his troops were many, his allies scattered. My 
[Zimri-Lim's] allies are [the gods] Dagan, Shamash, Itur-Mer, and Belet- 
Ekallim and Addu, lord of determination; they [these gods] go at the side of 
my lord [into battle].' " (L 257) 

I in like the mortal allies of Ishme-Dagan, who will desert him, Zimri-Lim's 
lilies are the gods, who will stay by his side and lead him to victory. Another 
prophet agreed, repeatedly shouting his prophecy by the palace gate: "Ishme- 
I >agan [son of Shamshi-Adad] will not escape the hand of [the god] Marduk" 
I \2S). As it happened, Ishme-Dagan died and lost his kingdom (L 145-6). 

When a king wanted to go to war, he had to consult the gods, both to increase 
m morale of his troops, but also because a favorable oracle from the gods was 
I msidered a justification for war. Hammurabi, when he attacked his erstwhile ally 
! arsa, proclaimed: 

"I now requested [an oracle about going to war with Larsa from the gods] 
Shamash and Marduk and they answered me with yes. I would not have risen 
to this nlfriiMvi |.i!\nu\i I n i| without consulting a god [first]." To his troops 


I M 



he spoke as follows: "Go [to Larsa], may the god go in front of you [into 
battle]!" (L 333) 

It is possible that Hammurabi had no desire to attack Tarsa before the oracle 
from the gods, but more often kings were simply seeking divine permission to do 
what they had already determined to do. 

Sometimes a commander or a king ignored the omens, though they were 
repeatedly advised by the diviners not to do so. One commander was adamant: 
"Only go out [on campaign] upon sound extispicies!" (L 458). Another oracle 
declared: "I am afraid the king [Zimri-Lim] will commit himself to [peace with] 
the Eshnunakean [king] without asking a god.. . . He must not commit himself 
without asking the god" (L 253). One priest complained that the commander was 
considering acting against the omens: 

The enemy are enlisting border guards from the elite troops and enlisting 
additional troops [in preparation for war] but my lord must [wait] and keep 
catering to the wishes of [the gods] Dagan, Shamash, and Addu about these 
things.. . . My lord must not hurry into battle, and my lord must not [attack] 
the enemy. . . When Dagan, Shamash, and Addu, these gods, have answered 
you with yes and your extispicies are sound, then my lord must do battle! 
(L 243) 

In general, however, the omens and prophecies were ignored at great peril. Bad 
omens and military misfortunes were blamed on the inscrutable will of the gods: 
"have I done anything that does not please [the sun-god] Shamash so that he has 
done this to me? . . . Why has the god treated me this way?" (PH 33). Although 
most of us today are rather dubious that the will of God can be found in the 
blotches on the liver of a sheep, we should never doubt that the ancient soldiers 
had absolute belief in the efficacy of extispicy and prophecy. If a commander 
operated against the omens, the morale of his army suffered drastically. Omens 
changed the course of battle not because they were real, but because the Meso 
potamian soldiers believed they were real, and behaved in rational response to that 
belief Although generals might miss important military opportunities by refusing 
to march when the omens were bad, campaigning with bad omens could bring 
disaster because of the devastating psychological impact on the morale of the 
troops. 5 All successful ancient commanders instinctively acted upon this, whether 
they themselves actually believed in the gods and the omens or not. 

Middle Bronze generals well understood the importance of maintaining high 
morale among their soldiers, as is reflected in this dispatch: 

The last of the Hana [nomad auxiliaries] have arrived here.. . . No one is sick 
No one! There are no losses.. . . When I observed all | previous] expedition 
there were many worries; but in this expedition I observe no sorrow or am 
thing of that kind, only laughter and joking. |The soldi • i s| ne as happy as h 

they were living at home. The hearts of my lord's servants think [only] of the 
endeavor of fighting battles and defeating the enemy. Rejoice m V lord' 

(WM 101-2) 

Bad battle omens were one sure way to destroy this type of good morale. 

Modern disbelievers in ancient prophetic techniques might naturally expect a 
high rate of inaccuracy from ancient omens and prophecies. And, indeed, manv of 
the oracles are manifestly false. One prophet, for example, proclaimed: "kingship, 
< epter, throne, reign, the upper [land of Syria] and lower land [of Mesopotamia] 
ire given to Zimri-Lim" (L 267). In fact, it was Zimri-Lim's erstwhile ally Ham- 
murabi of Babylon who became universal king of Mesopotamia, by sacking Mari 
1 1 id killing Zimri-Lim. This naturally leads us to wonder: if the omens and pro- 
phecies were frequently inaccurate, why didn't military commanders simply 
ibandon their use altogether? To answer this question we must remember that 
•men interpretation was an art, not a science, and there was a great deal of "wig- 
gle-room" possible in extispicy, allowing a range of possible interpretation by the 
-viner. We must also remember that the diviner-priests were among the most 
ducated men of their day. They were well-informed high courtiers with close 
iociations with the power elites of the kingdom. Julius Caesar, for all his great- 
ness as a commander, also occasionally served Rome as a diviner, as pontifex 
maximus and auger. 6 Like Caesar, Mesopotamian diviners led troops in battle 
\KM 2.22). They frequently served as spies, sending detailed reports on poll- 
i( al and military matters back to the king (L 94-5). Whether intentionally or 
ubconsciously, the interpretation of omens and extispicies could be manipulated 

I'v the diviners. The results of oracles and divination were thus not merely 

Miidom, but were informed interpretations of omens made with knowledge of 
I" major military and political issues facing the commander. Court and regi- 
nental diviner-priests were undoubtedly often wrong, but overall they were 

probably not much more inaccurate than modern political pundits and intelligence 
> -vices. When a modern intelligence service fails, we blame human error. We 

may try to change the personnel or fix the system, but we don't abandon it. 
I hen ancient oracles failed, it was likeyvise seen as a mistake made by the diviner 

-at her than evidence that the overall system itself was faulty. A particular 

diviner-priest may have been dismissed from court, but the practice of divination 

I ontinued. 

I nidly enough, battle-divination was one of the most pervasive and long-lasting 

military practices of ancient Mesopotamia. Long after chariots and slings were 

Kndoned, battle divination continued. Divine sanction for Saul's reign over Israel 

- withdrawn when he disobeyed his diviner-priest, the prophet Samuel (1 

llinud 13). Likewise there was a dispute between Ahab of Israel and the prophet 

1" aiah over battle divination (1 Kings 22). A thousand years later, Greek and 

.nun generals were still practicing essentially the same type of battle-divination 

"tuals The last pagan Roman battle divination was requested by Julian the 

A f 1,,sutr m * M (I ,|m vcats aftei the writing of the Man letters. 8 Medieval 




Christians had their own forms of pre -battle divination, beginning with 
Constantine's vision at the battle of Milvian Bridge in 312 CE. 9 Indeed, in its core 
feature pre-battle divination has continued in use to the present, for when a mili- 
tary commander today prays for God's help in the planning and execution of his 
battle and for the protection of his troops, he is, in essence, engaging in the same 
practice as the ancient Mesopotamian diviners. 

Military organization 

There are few texts in the Mari archive which explicitly discuss military organi- 
zation (L 498-500, 507-8). However, there are a number of incidental allusions to 
such matters which give us a fairly detailed view of how a Mesopotamian Middle 
Bronze army was organized and functioned (MK 141-5; MM). 

Conscription and records 
(MM 7-11; MK 141-5; WM 66-88) 

In order to know the proper duties owed by each community, Mesopotamian 
rulers are known to have instituted censuses. The most detailed account we have is 
the census of Zimri-Lim of Mari (MK 142-3). The census was called a tebibtum, 
which literally means purification, probably related to religious rituals associated 
with the census. The people were required to gather to be counted. The common 
people were understandably wary of a census that would be used to determine 
both their financial obligations to the state and the number of men they would 
have to provide for military and labor drafts, and the. records of Zimri-Lim's census 
show that many tried to avoid being counted (ARM 14.64). 10 One official sug- 
gests parading the severed head of an executed prisoner as an inducement to those 
villagers who refused to be counted (ARM 2.48). 

Troops were recruited for military service in three broad categories: profes- 
sional soldiers, militias and mercenaries. Recruitment (puhrum) procedures were 
run by a sophisticated military bureaucracy led by the "secretary of the army" 
(dub.sar mar.tu) (ASD 106-9). Each regiment had a scribe attached to it who 
received the pay equivalent of a lieutenant (L 500; MM 9, 12-13). These military 
scribes kept detailed complete lists of the names and hometowns of all of the sol- 
diers, from which were derived lists of casualties and deserters, a frequently men- 
tioned problem (MM 45-7; WM 72). Each village mayor (suqaqum) was required 
to oversee the recruitment in his village, and to make sure his village's quota was 
fulfilled. The recruits were required to "swear an oath [of loyalty] by Dagan" or 
some other god, after which their names were recorded on clay tablets; a copy was 
kept by the regimental scribe and another sent to the central archive (L 461, 482; 
WM 73-5). When called up, new recruits were inspected and those unfit for 
duty - the sick and old - were sent home (L 483). None the less, unfit soldiers 
could be found in the ranks; one general complained: "Reliable troops are nol at 
hand" (L 400). Another echoed this sentiment: "Win iln sou u I. i .< leli.iMe mm 

I'i ' 


[from service] and then replace them unnecessarily with [inexperienced] little 
children?" (L 330). 

In times of peace soldiers are frequently described as being on furlough (patuum) 
(L 224; WM 75-6). Specific lists of furloughed soldiers were recorded and forwarded 
to the central government (L 194). One commander reported to king Zimri-Lim: 

My lord wrote me about dead and runaway troops. My lord said: "Write 
down a name-list and send it to me!" Because I watch the troops closely over 
here, I have sent for the soldiers on furlough twenty days ago. Let the soldiers 
on furlough arrive here, and I shall inspect the name-list on the tablet and see 
who are the troops on hand and the runaway troops, and I will send a com- 
plete report to my lord. (L 297) 

A commander forwarded to the king the "name lists of the men on hand, the 
troops of the garrisons, the soldiers on furlough, the deserters, and the dead, place 
by place, on tablets" (L 348, 462). One such furlough tablet survives, listing indi- 
\ ldual soldiers by their regiment, personal name, and home town (L 464). One 
iext mentions that sixteen out of fifty soldiers were on furlough (L 224); another 
unit had twenty-five on furlough and only twenty-two on duty (L 312). When 
war breaks out, these furloughed troops are immediately called back to service (L 

! 13). Sometimes a commander was not able to muster the requisite number of 
i loops; one officer was reprimanded for having only 800 men instead of the 
required 1000 (L 487). 

As in any army, officers and soldiers grew weary of extended duty away from 
home. One city commander wrote to the king, complaining: "I have been staying 
in | the city of] Han-Sura [on duty] in the garrison for five years. Now, if it pleases 
ii iy lord, let my lord dispatch an alternate for me!" (L. 310). Ordinary soldiers also 
BCpected to rotate after a certain term of service. "My lord instructed us as follows: 

(Jo and stay three months'.. . . Now we have fulfilled three months.. . . If my lord 
ill dispatch to me a replacement for these troops, let those troops go!" (L 312). 
When conditions of service became bad enough, the troops became mutinous. 
1 iliy men deserted when there was insufficient food (L 213), and others threatened 
i<> do so as well (L 314). One commander reported growing dissatisfaction in the 
i.uiks, with his soldiers complaining: 

Why did we go on campaign, and why did we not return to our lord at the 
end [of the campaign]? . . . [The soldiers] hearts are angry, and they will rise 
| and desert] and depart for somewhere else.... [The king] must give them 
(lour. He must replace these troops! (L 313—14) 

Soldiers also complained of serving in winter, apparently expecting military 
erviee to be seasonal (I 185, 192-3). Punishment for disobedient or cowardly 
soldiers ( ould be harsh, including being stripped naked, bound, beaten, and para- 
di il before the troops to be mo< ked (I 463). 



Nomad mercenaries 

Mercenaries were frequently recruited from the nomads (L 222—3; WM 67), and 
the Kassite and Elamite highlanders (ASD 88—9). Most prominent sources of 
nomad mercenaries for the king of Mari were the Hana tribe of the Sim'al tribal 
confederation. 11 Another major tribal confederation, which seems to have been 
less willing to serve in the armies of Mari, was the Banu-Yamina (Yaminites, 
Benjaminites) to the north-east around the Khabur River (WM 95). These groups 
were divided into a number of clans, each ruled by a sugagum — a chief or shaykh. 
In the Mari archives they make frequent appearance both as raiders attacking the 
kingdom and its caravans, and as mercenaries in the service of the king. Under the 
right conditions, the nomadic tribes could muster sizable forces in service of a 
kingdom. Zimri-Lim mobilized some 7000 nomads for one of his campaigns: 
"Two thousand [soldiers from the] Hana [nomad tribe] were assembled in Qattu- 
nan, and they keep assembling as scheduled.. . . Five thousand Numha and 
Yamutbal troops are assembled together. They go to [military service for] my lord" 
(L 416). The nomads needed both monetary and verbal inducements to join the 
king's campaign. One commander reported: "the Hana [nomads], all of them, are 
assembled now and I delivered the instruction of my lord [king Zimri-Lim] . I 
caused them relief with words; and they arose and proclaimed favorable words and 
greetings to my lord" (L 200). There was a downside to using nomad mercenaries. 
The passage of nomad troops, often together with their families and herds, could 
cause problems for farmers in the campaign area. "There were masses of Numh;i 
and Yumutbal [nomads], together with their little boys and girls, slaves, maids, 
oxen, and donkeys. After they use up the grain, they will destroy the sedge and 
reed of the bank of the Euphrates" (L 204). 

Organization 12 

Reports of the payment of some Mariote regiments in Babylonian service provide 
us with a basic outline of both military organization and pay rates (L 498-500, 
507—8). Compensation for military service took a number of forms, including land 
grants (L 446), clothing (L 507-8), food (ASD 88), weapons (see section on 
logistics on p. 21), silver wages (L 498-500, 507-8), and slaves (L 225, 349). One- 
tablet records the daily grain distribution to soldiers: high officers received two 
thirds of a liter (qa) of barley per day, lower officers half a liter, and ordinary sol 
diers about a third of a liter (WM 140); there were also occasional distributions of 
vegetables, beer, and mutton (WM 14). 

Land (sibtu) was given to a soldier's family in return for military service, and was 
governed by strict laws in Hammurabi's Law Code (LC §26—38 = ANET 166— H 
ASD 96-101; L 446). Land was distributed in varying amounts to different ranks; 
one general was given a huge estate of 190 hectares of land (MAS 26), while 
common soldiers were given small, single-family plots. II" tin- soldier failed to 
report for duty or sent an unauthorized substitute, he to In- r\o utrd (I (Mj.?(>) 

( )n occasion, however, soldiers were permitted to send substitutes (takhkhu) to 
fulfill family military obligations (ASD 91-3). Soldiers who were taken prisoner 
m war were to have their land protected, and passed to a son who was to assume his 
i.ither's military responsibilities (LC §27-9); land with a military obligation 
attached to it could not be sold (LC §36). Officers were forbidden upon pain of 
death to take the goods of a soldier, to hire the soldier out for labor, or appropriate 
Ins land grant (LC §34). Soldiers were also forbidden to sell the provisions given 
fom by the state (LC §37). 

Plunder (sallatum) (WM 76-9) was an important element in the soldiers pay; a 
portion of all booty was kept by the king, but soldiers expected their share: 

Let your troops seize booty and they will bless you. These three towns are not 
heavily fortified. In a day we shall be able to take them. Quickly come up and let 
us capture these towns and let your troops seize booty. (ARM 5.16; WM 77) 

The documents mention soldiers who stole booty from the kings share, and 
ilso officers who kept booty that should have been given to the soldiers. One 
• ommander complained that some of his officers . . . 

have stolen the soldier's booty! I put an oath of the king into my mouth 
not to rob the booty of a soldier. Not ten days had passed after my decree 
when a tablet , . . arrived, saying "Whoever has taken away the soldiers' booty 
has committed a sacrilege against me." (ARM 2.13; WM 78-9) 

In Table 7.1, I give very rough hypothetical equivalents to modern military 

■ .inks.. The fundamental military leader was the general (gal.martu, rab Amurrim), 

Inn-ally the "great man of the Amorites". Generals are mentioned as commanding 

giments of sizes ranging from 500-2000 men (L 581, index; MM 12), 

"i perhaps ideally standardized at 1000 (MK 142). At Sippar the rank was not 

rmanent; rather it rotated among different officials every one to three years 

AND 93-6), perhaps to prevent officers from gaining a permanent independent 

m »wer base. 

Mention is also made of two colonels (sapiru sabim) as assistants to the general (L 
8). Under the generals were captains {rab pirsim, gal.ku), who commanded a 

Each captain was assisted by two lieutenants 

■ i.mcia 

rdized company of 100. 

kputtum or nubanda). 14 There is also mention of 50 "standard bearers" (mubab- 

Ulum) in a regiment of 1000 men (L 597, index). This would make five "standard 

fctrers" assigned to each 100 men. They may have been something like a sergeant, 

Wlimanding twenty men each (L 508). Finally, there is the corporal (ugula io 

n \ wakil 10 awilum, literally, "overseer often men"), who commanded ten 

' n (L 499, 581 index). A quasi-military commander was the mayor of a royal 

{sug&gum). These served as citadel-commanders and were responsible for 

quipping and feeding troops, and sometimes leading troops in battle (L 587, 

index; MM 13). 





That these were somewhat standardized ranks rather than merely vague titles is 
indicated by the proportional pay scale associated with each rank. The following 
chart (Table 7.1) shows the scale of pay. 

In interpreting these figures, it must be emphasized that the shekels mentioned 
here are measures of weight, not coins. The Middle Bronze Mesopotamian shekel 
weighed about eight grams, but the actual weight of a shekel could vary from 
region to region and time to time. Broadly speaking, a talent was the load a man 
could carry - roughly 30 kilograms. This was divided into 60 rnina: roughly 500 
grams or 1.1 pound. The mina was further divided into 60 shekels, of about 8 
grams each (L xiv). 

To complicate matters, the Mesopotamians in this period indulged in the time 
honored practice of devaluing their currency. The texts speak of, for example, 
"silver rings of five shekels nominal value, their [real] weight four shekels" (L 500). 
It seems that the Babylonians were either adding 20 percent copper to their silver, 
or trying to pass off shekels that were in reality only 80 percent of their supposed 
weight. On the other hand this discrepancy might reflect a distinction between 
different weights of a shekel in different regions. The silver was not in the form 
of coins, but in the form of jewelry, cups, or plates, though these could have 
a standardized weight. The texts mention rings, cups, disks, and collars (T 498- 
500, 508). 

Table 7. 1 Pay 

scales associated with military ranks 

Ancient rank 

Modern parallel 

L 498-9 

L 500a 



rab Amurrim 



30 S 

3 garment 


20 G 

1 garment 

1 shirt 

sapiru sabim 


5 G 
10 S 
1 garment 

10 G 

1 garment 

1 shirt 

10 G 


2 garment 

2 shirts 

rab pirsim 



1 garment 


20 S 

1 garment 

1 shirt 

20 S 
1 shirt 




1 garment 

1 shirt 


1 garment 

1 shirt 

10 S 

1 garment 

1 shirt 

11 S 

1 garment 

1 shirt 


"standard bearer" 
= sergeant 



1 shirt 

1 shirt 

1 shirt 


"overseer often" 
= corporal 

10 soldiers 

2 S 1 shirt 

2S = 

0.2 S /man 

2S = 

0.2 S /man 

3S = 

0.3 S /man 

3 S = 

0.3 S /man 

Abbreviations: G = gold shekel; S = silver shekel; a shekel \\c\y) 

•My S 

To give a sense of the economy of scale, we can look at other prices mentioned 
in the Mari archive. The price of a boat ranged from 10-30 shekels depending on 
i/e and quality (L 407). A slave cost 10 shekels, while three sheep could be bought 
'.<>r two shekels (MM 13). Six (large?) jars of wine cost one shekel (L 407), as did 
twenty arrows. Men who brought back a prisoner of war were given two shekels 
I silver and a new shirt (T 467). A horse, on the other hand, cost five minas (300 
hekels), fifteen times the wages of a captain. 

One can see from this chart that payment was proportionally relatively stable, 

'though the specific amounts varied. The variation in pay is probably because of 

inferences in the period of time which the soldiers served; was this payment for a 

month, two months, or a full campaign season? The pay may have been campaign 

ay rather than monthly or annual pay; an army of 650 was paid two shekels per 

u men, and their leader eight shekels and a shirt for a short campaign (L 467), 

-ughly the same as indicated in Table 7.1. Some of the payments were also given 

l allied troops or nomad mercenaries, who may have been paid at a different scale 

!i an the kings own professional troops. 

Mesopotamian armies were also divided into categories based on equipment, 

uning and experience (MM 17-25). The precise meaning of many of the terms 

c ussed here is unknown, and must be inferred from the context. It is also 

u lear if some terms designate a specific assignment or function given to soldiers on 

ii ad hoc basis, rather than indicating separate permanently organized regiments. 

I ne normal term for a simple soldier is be'rum or erin (MM 22—3); generically, 

oldiers or troops are sabum while an army is ummanatum (T 598—601, index). The 

mi sabum is used with all sorts of qualifiers indicating specific assignments for 

roops. Mesopotamian armies clearly understood the importance of reconnoiter- 

ftg before battle. Scouts (sakbum) are mentioned frequently (L 594, index), as are 

irmishers or reconnoiterers (baddum) (L 592; MM 16—17). Armies were some- 

mirs divided into different columns, marching ahead or behind each other. The 

Milliard (rasum) seems to have been composed of elite troops who could march 

I i iter than ordinary soldiers, and were sent ahead of the main body (MM 18). 

I hey were more than just scouts; one letter mentions that a commander "led the 

mguard of 1000 men and reached Qatunnan. The rest of the troops will come 

.liter me in battle formation to Qatunnan. The [total] force of 3000 men . . . will 

e gathered" (ARM 3.14). According to contemporary itineraries, armies gen- 

■ rally made 25 kilometers (15 miles) per day, but could march 35 (21 miles) on a 

forced march. 15 

There were also different classes of troops serving as guards and garrisons for 

• uses. The border guards (bazahatum) (L 573, index) seem to be small outpost and 

itrol units which were stationed away from the main city and who watched the 

border and reported to the commander on the movement of troops, nomads, 

Ii 1 1 hants, messengers, or any other significant groups of people. Garrison troops 

birtum), on the other hand, were assigned to defend cities (L 581, index; WM 98; 

AM > S7 S). Massitrttwi or guards may be a different term for a similar function; 

thr\ air mainly lies* i iU,l ,is :'u.uJm:' i itirs (1 582, index). 




There are also classifications of troops which seem to apply to their state oi 
readiness. The regulars (pihrum) seem to be permanent professional troops (L 592, 
index). They are mentioned as receiving tracts of land in return for their military 
service; whether they were to farm these lands or receive the produce or revenues 
is unclear., They received "five dike plots", whereas ordinary farmers had only 
"three dike plots" (L 446). Another category were the reservists (diriga), who were 
called up only in times of war (L 593, index). This category may be related to 
"replacement" troops (ruddum) (MM 19). Archers are rarely mentioned as a sepa 
rate category of soldier in the Mari texts (MK 63), though there is some evidence 
for a low level of military archery. It may simply be that archers are assumed to 
have been included in the broader categories of troops mentioned above, but it 
may be that archery was not widely used in Middle Bronze Mesopotamian armies. 
In conditions of extreme emergency the entire population could be mobilized for 
military and labor in the service of the state (L 319, 386). 

A strange category of troops are the "fishermen" {ba'irum) (ASD 101-2). The 
have sometimes been interpreted as being enlisted to fish for the army on cam 
paign, or for using their nets to entangle the enemy (WM 93-4). A more likely 
explanation is that the "fishermen" were more generically simply boatmen, who 
were enlisted to run the boats servicing the army, and probably to act as marines 
fighting from boats. One Mari text shows that they were clearly expected to fight: 
"When you hear this tablet send me the ba'irum who are with you, all who are 
present. They can carry their axes and equipment" (ARM 1.31; WM 94). In the 
contemporary Law Code of Hammurabi the military obligations of the ba'irum are 
precisely the same as those of the ordinary soldier (redum). 16 In the military context 
I would suggest that marine might be a broadly analogous modern term. 

Troops were also classified by their arms (see pp. 252-6) and function. Light 
troops (qallatum) are frequently mentioned in association with ambushing enemies 
(L 474; MM 17-18, 43-4). Elite or heavy troops (kibitum) seem to be more heavily 
armed and better trained than ordinary soldiers, but also to move more slowly. ' 
Rulers, governors, commanders, and kings were frequently served by personal 
retainers (sut resim), who were presumably the most experienced and skilled war 
riors they could find (L 591, index). The king's personal retainers formed the 
Royal Bodyguards (kisrum; girsequ), who accompanied the king wherever he went 
(MM 18-19). The royal bodyguard of Shamshi-Adad numbered 200-400 men (ARM 
2.1; WM 99). Charioteers were undoubtedly also elite warriors (see pp. 145-53) 

(MM 1-9; L 599-601 index) 

A wide range of numbers are given for military forces in the Mari tablets, from ,i 
few dozen to tens of thousands. The figures provided in the sources are sometime 
based on propaganda, attempting to inflate the glory of a king either by mcre.isin 
the strength of his army, or that of a defeated enemy. Othei faulty figures he 
quently derive from ignorance, and were no more than wild imesses. I lowev< i 



u.tny numbers provided by the sources are derived from internal archives, which 

■ ere intended for day-to-day operation of the state. These figures are probably 
quite reliable (MK 141-2; MM 7-8). 

The largest force mentioned during this period is a claim of 120,000 men by 

he king of Eshununa. The king claimed "he inspected my troops at the gate of 
l'..ib-Kikurrim and now from my 600,000 troops I will send [as an allied con- 
tingent] 120,000 good troops" (PH 79). Given the demographic and logistical 
ie.ilities of the day these figures are undoubtedly sheer hyperbolistic propaganda 

I 599, index). Other extraordinarily large armies include one of 60,000 (MM 8; 
I 599), 40,000 (L 329), and 30,000 (L 418, 459, 460; ARM 2.69). Six armies of 

10,000 are mentioned and another four of 10,000. 18 

However, such large armies were certainly exceptional and in some ways the 

umbers are problematic. One of the letters in the Mari archive contains a 
markable statement of intentional disinformation by Hammurabi: "When I dis- 

> itch 100 troops the one who hears it will quote it as 1000. And when [I dispatch] 

000 troops, he will emote it as 10,000." It seems here that Hammurabi was wor- 
d about enemy spies hearing about the number of his soldiers, or capturing the 

nessenger and reading the dispatches from the clay tablets. Thus, in at least some 

1 his correspondence and communication, Hammurabi used a simple code: 
multiply his real troop strengths by ten. Thus, if the enemy somehow intercepted 

be message, they would be confused by how many men Hammurabi really had, 

linking he had more men than he did and hopefully causing confusion and hes- 

i.i lion, perhaps even forestalling an attack altogether. The problem is that, though 

! I.immurabi wanted to confuse the enemy, he may also have succeeded in con- 

i ling later scholars. Was this a permanent policy on the part of Hammurabi, or 

• is it used only for a limited period of time in a particular campaign? Which of 

he numbers for Hammurabi s army found on the clay tablets are accurate, and 

Inch should be divided by ten? Did other rulers also use similar codes for the numbers of troops? Or did other rulers use a different code system: should 

he numbers given for Zimri-Lim's Mariote armies be divided by two, or four, or ten? 

'i should they be read as the actual numbers? Unfortunately, we can't be sure. 

Based on archaeological evidence we can obtain good information on city size, 
i id from that, a range of population for cities based on an assumption of potential 
population density per hectare. 19 Unfortunately, even here we are left with esti- 
mates. How many floors did a building have? How many people slept in a room? 
We cannot be certain. But the overall population of the largest Mesopotamian 
■ tties was probably around 50,000 people. If there were armies of 20,000— 60,000 
gularly operating in Middle Bronze Mesopotamia, these forces undoubtedly 
luded large numbers of militia conscripts, and even laborers to build siege 
I imps. \^uc to logistical limitations such huge armies would be able to stay in the 
field tor only limited periods of time. 

( >u the other hand, as discussed above, Mesopotamian military scribes kept 
detailed censuses with tablets recording the name of each individual soldier. It is 
ileai that kings had i»(inil urn on then- potential and actual manpower. 



in In Ail. ul 1 I (SO*) 1776} wrote a letter to his son Yasmah-Adad, who hail 
I Miii installed as king of Mari {1796-1776} before being ousted by Zimri-Lim n 
1776. This letter explains how Shamshi-Adad planned to raise an army of 20,0(MI 
men for his campaign. 

[One of my officials] has inspected the Hana [nomad mercenaries] of th 
encampment and I have fixed at 2000 men those who are to go on a cam 
paign with Yasmah-Adad [king of Mari]. All of these men are now inscribed 
by name on a tablet.. . . [These men] will march with you, plus 3000 met 
[you will mobilize from Mari].. . . All those people who go with you shoulil 
be inscribed, by name, on a tablet.. . . Collect 1000 men between the two 
[nomad tribes?], 1000 men among the Hana [nomads], 600 men from amour 
the Uprapu, Yarihu, and Amnanu [clans of the Yaminite nomad confedera 
tion]. Pick up here and there two or three hundred men according to th 
circumstances and collect 500. With your [own personal military] attendants, 
1000 men will suffice. Then you will have assembled 6000 men. As for me, 1 

will send you 10,000 men of the land [of Assyria] They will be a strong 

and well-equipped contingent. I have also written to [our allied kingdom of] 
Eshnunna. Six thousand men will come up from Eshnuna. These [added] 
upon those [troops you will raise will total] 20,000 men, a strong army. (MM 
8-9; WM 66-7) 

Shamshi-Adad seems to have had a little trouble with math; his numbers an 
confusing, but I interpret his figures as follows. The first part of the letter describes 
2000 nomad mercenaries and 3000 regular troops from Mari. The next mention 
of 1000 men from a clan whose name is lost and the 1000 Hana nomads, I belie v i 
repeats the original number of 2000 nomads, but breaks the total down into 
smaller clans. To these are added 600 men from smaller nomad clans, creating i 
total of 2600 nomads, plus 500 men recruited from odd sources to bring the total 
up to over 3000. This figure is then added to the 3000 men mobilized from l / 
mentioned in the first half of the letter, of whom 1000 are the personal attendant \ 
or elite troops of Yasmah-Adad. The two groups added together make up the 60()< > 
men Shamshi-Adad expected from Mari, to which he adds the 10,000 men he will 
send from his forces in Assyria and 6000 Eshnuna allies, giving the grand total ot 
20,000 (actually 22,000) he wants for the campaign. The numbers are obvioush 
vague estimates, but indicate that Shamshi-Adad, an experienced warrior, believed 
it was realistic for an alliance of three of the most powerful kingdoms of the age to 
raise an army of 20,000. He also states, however, that this is "a strong army", 
implying that most armies were smaller than 20,000. 

In extreme emergency a general mobilization of the entire population con Id 
occur, as happened when the Elamites invaded Babylon: 

The conscripts of Hammurabi have positioned themselves for battle.. . . 
Hammurabi has ordered a total mobilization in his I It- < ailed up troops 



of all merchants, all males, including releasing slaves [from slavery if they serve 
1 1 1 the army] , and they are ready. And he sent high-ranking servants to Rim- 
Sin [king of Larsa] asking for [allied] troops. (L 319, 386) 

1 1 is thus likely that figures mentioning armies larger than 20,000 men were 

-it her disinformation, included a large number of laborers, or represent a tem- 

I n y total mobilization for a state emergency. Generally, most armies mentioned 

the Mari tablets ranged in the hundreds and low thousands, even in major 

. :() 

Logistics (MM 34-6) 

pending on the circumstances, the state frequently provided soldiers with 

i pons, clothing, and food. An official known as the abi sabi was a type of 

i .ucal officer (ASD 102-5). Troops going on campaign are often said to have 

n given provisions for a certain number of days (L 361—4, 368), ranging from 

ii (L 458, 507) to forty days (L 383). Delays in campaigning were often caused by 

iculties in collecting enough supplies: "he is staying in Manuhatan and secures 

ii travel provisions" (L 191-2, 487—8). Requests for supplies are frequent in the 

tters, including oil (L 193). Sometimes troops show up without weapons and 

\ tvr to be equipped by the state (L 516). Weapons were stored in government 

rials, and were issued to troops as they were mobilized: a commander ordered 

mi his men "open the storehouse, provide a spear [for each soldier], and add 

n.ivel provisions for forty days." 21 Weapons mentioned in texts from the Old 

[Uhylonian period include the standard Middle Bronze panoply. 

Itate storehouses also contained thousands of bushels of grain (L 409), but 

tting these supplies to the troops in the field was frequently a problem. Com- 

mders often complained of lack of supplies (L 213, 262); one officer, exasperated 

such grumbling, responded, "Stop griping! Accept those provisions [we sent]!" 

I l()4). A bad harvest or a plundered crop could send a city-state into crisis. 

hen armies were in the field, there were sometimes not enough men to collect 

Ii* harvest (L 421-2); soldiers might therefore be temporarily assigned to aid with 

V harvest (L 457). One officer says his soldiers could not be mobilized until after 

K harvest is over (L 520). Armies sometimes confiscated local carts and boats for 

nilitary transport, with the result that the harvest could not be collected for sto- 

and rotted in the fields (L 413). Good boots are always in short supply in war. 

'iic commander asked his friend, "Send me good boots!", to which his friend 

plied, "Send me an impression of your feet and I shall have good boots made" 

1 H)8). 

As warfare continued, supplies could dwindle; people were sometimes reduced 
m eating the seed-crop for next year, insuring ongoing grain shortages (L 419). 
Ishme IXigaifs crops were destroyed in war, leaving "no grain whatsoever in his" ( I -102); lie was (on ck\ to send his sons as hostages along with boats and eight 
[ il< ins df silvci .is tribute, to lui\ "inn from his enemy (I. 38°, 396, 403), In the 



end he sold 400 "little boys and girls" into slavery to buy grain (L 390). As famine 
spread, the poor were forced to move in search of food, spreading the crisis: "Any 
strong man who has grain is staying [in the city] . Any weak commoner who has 
no gram departed for the [Euphrates] River [in search of food]" (L 419, 420). As 
in any other war, the supplies were not always in the same place as the soldiers: 
"The troops are hungry They have not received provisions" (ARM 13.33, WM 

Natural disaster, drought, or bad harvest could exacerbate food shortages. 
Locust attacks wiped out one harvest (L 420-2), causing a commander to recall an 

My lord must dispatch troops, and they must save the grain of the palace, ami 
[come] over here for harvesting. These commoners - they suffered last yeai 
They now saw the hand of the locust and said, "If the locusts [eat] the grain 
plantations, we will not stay on [but will leave in search of food]." (L 422) 

The problems of garrisoning troops are discussed in some of the letters. One 
letter mentions a plan to move a force of "two thousand strong spearmen.. . . [Bin 
if you evacuate the troops, their [total] population is ten thousand [including the | 

men and [their] women [and children] If we evacuate a population often 

thousand and also leave their grain behind, it will be a heavy burden for the palace 
to feed them.. . . Boats and pack asses, indeed carts [will be needed to move 
them]" (L 195). Keeping an army stationed in one region for too long could put a 
strain on local food resources, since the land where the troops were stationed was 
expected to provide half of the supplies for the army each month (ARM 1.60; 
WM 142). One commander complained: "The load [of feeding the army] has 
become great. The garrison troops, all of them, consume [our] grain rations" (I 
417). In another city, the commoners rioted because too much of the city grain 
supply was being taken by the army (L 521). 

Corruption and war-profiteering were problems four thousand years ago as 
well as today. One disheartened quartermaster was shocked at the disarray of the 
grain supplies for the soldiers in one city: 

I came down and found the earlier troops [who had been quartered in a city | 
have sold [the army's] grain for silver. The later troops came and wasted grain. 

Now there are fifty donkey-loads of grain Not that they gave grain rations 

to anybody - and five hundred measures of grain are gone from the granary 
for no reason whatsoever! (L 271) 

When soldiers were serving on campaign with an allied king, the ally was 
expected to provide their supplies (L 281, 438), though he didn't always fulfill his 
responsibilities properly (L 215). Some allied logistic services were better orga 
nized, with precise amounts of provisions prepared for a spe< ifi< number oi sol 
diers, who were also provided with quarters by the allied t on in undei (I ">23) 




Supplies, equipment, and men needed to be transported to the war zone, and 
ii. my of the Mari letters deal with the problems of military transportation. Ancient 
"inmanders recognized that the type of transport used was in some ways deter- 
mined by ecology and terrain. Hammurabi made the following observation: "The 
[leans [of transportation] of your land [the city of Mari in Syria] is donkeys and 
ii ts; the means [of transportation] of this land [Babylon] is boats" (L 379), 

As Hammurabi noted, the transportation of supplies in ancient Mesopotamia 

as done by human porter (L 178), donkey (L 271), cart (L 223), or boat (maturrum) 

WM 143-4). One caravan included 300 men and 300 donkeys; another thirty 

ten and 60 donkeys (L 365). A commander received a shipment of flour, but 

mplained: "sixty donkey-loads of flour . . . are not enough. They must provide 

with 100 donkey-loads of flour" (L 454). Was the failure to send 100 donkey- 

loads because of a lack of flour, or of donkeys? Lack of transport was a frequent 

iroblem. One commander complained that "the baggage of my lord has been left 

hind in Saggaratum . . . because of the lack of porters" (L 178). If he was relying 

ii human porters he obviously had no pack animals or carts. Heavy baggage was 

I rcquently left behind or taken on different routes to allow the army to move faster 

\KM 1.35; WM 142-3). 

lioats were frequently used to transport both men and supplies by river (L 184, 223, 

►24). One quartermaster sent this order: "Load onto ships 3125 bushels of barley, 

I > bushels of flour and 313 bushels of billitum, at the rate of 156 bushels [per boat] 

ii nl send it downstream.. . . This grain is the regular barley ration for the fortress 

i ihliya" (ARM 13.33, WM 141). Boats were often simply requisitioned from the 

. aJ population (L 505): "he must seize ten small-boats on the right bank [of the 

t [ver] and ten small-boats on the left bank upstream from Dir and collect for me as 

n any boats as there are, be it from the palace or be it from the commoners" (L 203). 

Mother general "gathered together as many boats and small-boats as there were 

tvailable to bring up grain" (L 309). Soldiers would disrupt the river traffic of their 

nemies to prevent shipment of supplies (L 278). When moving upstream against 

he i urrent or wind, boats would sometimes be pulled by men on the shore (L 185). 

1 i unbat from boats is not mentioned in the letters, but presumably did occur. 

fairly large forces could be moved by ship; 6000 men are mentioned with 

I ups, but it is likely that many of these walked on shore alongside the fleet in the 

i iver (L 320),. Another force of 5000 men was accompanied by 600 "small-boats" 

I 58 1 , 514; ARM 6.68), about eight men per boat; clearly more or less the entire 

M i iv could have been moved by river in a fleet that size. On the other hand, 

mother army of 5000 men had only 120 "small-boats" (L 384) - about forty-two 

mm n per boat. This force seems to have marched by foot and had the boats bring 

their supplies and equipment (L 383). Troops are described as crossing rivers, 

presumably by boat (L 323), An army of Hammurabi, which was covering an 

i neniy army besieging the city of Upi, withdrew by boat (L 324). Boats were also 

used to transport sick and wounded soldiers (L 2S1). 



Boats could be expensive, and prices fluctuated wildly as war brought soaring 
demand for a limited number of ships. Depending on the size and circumstances, a 
boat could cost from 10 to 30 shekels of silver (L 407). 22 Furthermore, the price oi 
a boat varied, depending on whether one was going up or down stream, One 
commander complained: "Once I buy a boat here for ten shekels of silver, will it 
then not be worth [only] one shekel in Mari?" (L 407). Carts were likewise- 
sometimes in short supply, especially at harvest time when everyone needed as 
many carts as possible (L 413). 

Trips could be slowed by lack of supplies and logistical difficulties. One coin 
mander reported on the logistics of his operation: 

On the third day of the month of Kinunum . . . we started out from [the city 
of] Rapiqum and went to [the city of] Harbe [in one day] . We stayed five days 
in Harbe [fourth through ninth of Kinunum], until the troops had secured 
their travel provisions. We started out from Harbe and reached Yabliya in on 
day. The tenth [day] of the month of Kinunum was in progress when we set 
to fortifying Yabliya.. . . We brought the grain, belongings, and gear that wc 
shipped [by boat] upstream from Rapiqum into Harbe. (L 383) 

Here a journey of less than two days actually took seven days to complete becausi 
the troops had to wait for extra supplies. The army seems to have marched on foot 
while the supplies and equipment were brought by boat. It is not clear if the five- 
day delay at Harbe was because the soldiers were collecting supplies from the 
countryside or were waiting for the river fleet to catch up with them. 


•pies and informers would frequently report on the movement and plans of 

my kings (L 291, 303, 503), but despite such efforts the fog of war is every- 

hcre apparent in the Man military dispatches (L 364). Agents were frequently 

lied the king's "eyes" and "ears", while enemy informers were called "tongues" 

VM 116). One report states that "[the enemy] general La-Awil-Addu went out 

in Shubat-Enlil together with three thousand Eshnunakena troops. Perhaps he is 

ided for Ashnakkum, perhaps for Shuruzum. Who would know?" (L 313). 

>i her report claims La-Awil-Addu had 5000 men instead of 3000, but still 

Wiot say where he is bound (L 313). Yet another report is similar: "I do not 

low whether those [enemy] troops are headed for laying siege to Andarig or else 

Karana. I will [make] a determination of [where] they are headed [and report 

r]" (L 336). Mesopotamian commanders recognized the problem of uncertain 

iligence, and refused to commit themselves to battle without proper informa- 

i tL Within five days we will see a [more] complete report. And in view of that 

on that we see, we will consult and act. As long as we do not understand the 

lils of the situation, I will not dispatch any troops!" (L 475, 477). 

Enemy spies naturally tried to infiltrate an army, and could undermine the plans of 

neral. One report mentions the discovery of men at the court of Zimri-Lim who 

• I been sending information to the enemy (L 295). An allied force of 2000 Mariote 

' 100 Babylonian troops went on campaign against Eshnuna, but were thwarted 

luse a spy revealed their plans to the enemy: "A secret agent went out [from 

enemy], and the enemy got hold of the news about them, and the troops returned 

" M tneir campaign] empty-handed Flow can 5000 troops return empty- 

ruied to camp?" (L 458). One captured enemy spy was kept bound in prison (L 319). 

The army on campaign 

There are no detailed narrative accounts of Mesopotamian armies on campaigi 
(harranum). A coherent picture must be cobbled together from scattered bits oi 
information in the military dispatches. There is none the less enough informal inn 
to give us a broad picture of life on campaign. 

Scouting and spies (MM 37=42; WM 116-18) 

Scouts are frequently mentioned as both spying on the enemy and openly obs< i 
ving enemy movements. When enemy troops were seen operating in a hostil' 
fashion, a king might send a letter of ultimatum: "Withdraw your troops thai 
with Atamrum and withdraw your encampment that is settled in my district!" (L 
338). But even in the course of such ultimatums military vigilance was ih \ 
relaxed: "The scouts must stay on the right bank [of the river] from Appan 
Niattum-Burtum, and anyone who is headed toward ... an [enemy | cncampm< n 
[the scouts] must arrest" for interrogation (L 198-9). Armies operatinj' i 
unknown areas used local people for scouts and guides (I 391, V)7, 470) Spi 
were sent into enemy camps during sieges in diseovei enemy plans (I vV'i 


I are frequently mentioned in the Mari letters (L 332-3). The purpose of 
I i aids was simply plunder. Capturing enemy livestock was common, 23 as well 
iking human prisoners for slaves (L 309, 349). Grain was also plundered (L 362); 
l*r, since it was bulky and difficult to move rapidly it might simply be 
m (L 458, 511). Orchards were also cut down (L 479). Thus, in addition to 
rider, raids were intended to undermine the enemy's will and capacity to resist. 
hen enemy armies attacked, it caused a cessation of both communication and 
umerce between cities: "The land is stirred up [by the enemy invasion] and the 
) m\' cut" (L 410); this would naturally disrupt economic exchange. When a 
irauding enemy was raiding the countryside, the people would flee to the 
«urcst fortress city for protection (L 361). 
Borders were closely guarded against raids and incursions (L 233). King Zimri- 
n instructed one of his commanders: 

I ><> not neglect guarding the district and guarding against expeditions of the 

runny As |<>i the I lanean (nomad < hid] Yahsih Hi, together with his troops - 

mplo\ them forthi ighth |m < s< \ui\yy\ toi gram, and let them strengthen the 




[boundary defenses] of the district. Let the border guards depart [the city for 
duty at their outposts]. They must not let the enemy pass freely through the 
interior of the land. (L 229) 

Some raids were small affairs, capturing only thirty people (L 384) or "two 
Sutean women and three donkeys" (L 385). Another raid "captured thirty men 
and women [and] fifty head of cattle. They killed two men and one woman. ... A 
rescue detachment of seventy troops of the city of Nusar went in pursuit. The 
enemy killed twenty troops from among them" (L 397). 

Other raids could be much larger and more destructive (L 399). A successful 
raid netted "forty men and women, 100 cattle and 2000 sheep" (L 398, 511). 
Another large-scale raid brought widespread devastation: 

[Sasiya, the king of] the Turukkean [highlanders] raided the land of Ekallatum 
on the other [east] side of the [Tigris] river and went [all the way] to Kur- 
dishatum. They took the sheep of [the king] Ishme-Dagan, all of them. There 
was nothing left for miles. They carried off [the inhabitants] of four of his 
cities [as slaves] and defeated 500 soldiers [of the king]. (L 362) 

He was encroaching on my land. And I wrote you for troops but you did not 
give me troops. Yet you gave troops to another place. (L 332) 

Expeditions were sent out from cities to try to rescue captured slaves or animals 
(L 384, 387, 458, 467); presumably a raiding party would move slowly when 
herding captured sheep and could be more easily ambushed. On the other hand, many 
rescue expeditions failed (L 398). In such cases war-slaves could be ransomed; a 
family paid twenty-three shekels (184 grams) of silver to ransom their captured 
brother (L 360). On the other hand, there could be haggling for the ransom price. 
A man offered 67 shekels of silver for his son, but the captor demanded 100. The 
father couldn't raise the additional money, and in the end the son was tortured to 
death (L 366). Sometimes prisoners managed to escape, showing up at their home 
town naked and starving (L 487). The Law Code of Hammurabi has an interesting', 
clause relating to the ransoming of captured soldiers: 

If a merchant has ransomed either a private soldier (redum) or a marinr 
(ba'irum), who was captured in a campaign of the king, and has enabled him to 
reach his [home] city, if there is sufficient to [repay the merchant the] ransom 
in his house, he himself shall ransom himself; if there is not sufficient to ran- 
som him in his house, he shall be ransomed from the [temple] estate of his 
city-god; if there is not sufficient to ransom him in the estate of his city-god, 
the state shall ransom him, since his own field, orchard and house may not In- 
ceded for his ransom. (LC 87) 

Thus the state had the ultimate obligation to ransom pi mmh-is ni war. 



As in all other times in history the devastation caused by raids and plunder, 
"long with the disruption of the agricultural cycle and the displacement of popu- 
1 1 dons, frequently brought famine in the wake of war. Hungry people were seen 
tendering the countryside in search of food (L 309). There was sometimes little 
Inference between planned, government-sponsored raids and mere marauding and 
B igandage by soldiers. Hungry soldiers and nomads might simply take to mur- 
dering the peasants, pillaging the countryside, and alienating the people, though 
inch practices were usually counterproductive: "The Turukku [highlanders] could 
I lardly have taken along food for even five days.. . . They sacked [a village], and this 
I ii id, which had [once] been sympathetic to them, is hardened and become hostile 
to them. Now the Turukku are constantly hungry" (MM 11). 


rhe importance of strategy and battle tactics was emphasized in a letter from 
hamshi-Adad to his son, "You think up stratagems to beat the enemy and to 

maneuver for position against him. But the enemy will likewise try to think up 
' i atagems and to maneuver for position against you, just as two wrestlers use tricks 
igainst each other" (ARM 1.5; MM 43; WM 171). Unfortunately, detailed 
Inscriptions of field battles are relatively rare in the Mari letters. Often we are 
imply given a terse report: "The troops of the land of Mutiabal, all of them 
fcew up in battle formation. Hammurabi gave battle and defeated them" (L 321). 

\ utory in battle was always attributed to the gods: "Today the god of my lord 
rent in front of the army of my lord, and the spear of fiend and foe has been 

broken!" (L 334). 

( renerally speaking, when facing a stronger enemy, an army would withdraw to 

fortified city or camp rather than engage in open battle (L 329). When battles are 

I scribed, they are sometimes an attempt to drive off a besieging army. In this 

use it may be that Middle Bronze warfare in Mesopotamia was broadly parallel to 

I He medieval warfare in western Europe, where raids, sieges, and attempts to res- 
Lie besieged cities were more frequent than efforts to defeat an enemy field army 
1 open battle. 
One Mari commander, Yanuh-Samar, reported the following engagement, 

showing how armies maneuvered back and forth before battle. 

I [Yanuh-Samar, general of Mari] equipped 500 troops of Huziran and dis- 
patched them to [fight the enemy at] Mariyatum. On the second day a rescue 
detachment [of the enemy] came from Kahat.. . . Seven hundred Kahatean 
troops came to the rescue.. . . [But later they] retreated [back] to their city. As 
the Kahateans [retreated] on the road to Kahat, [I sent] 100 troops of [com- 
manderl Ishhi-Addu [from Mari] and 150 troops of Huziran [a vassal of Mari], 
250 troops [total] with Ishhi-Addu at their head with the order: "Go! Lay an 
ambush for the (retreating Kahatean| troops toward [the city of] Pardu." They 
(t)ok !•> ll -" k route| and i.mie mil toward Pardu to meet the Kahateans and 




ii- In, and the servants of my lord pushed the Kahateans back, and [the 
Kahateans] abandoned six corpses. All of them [the soldiers allied with Mari] 
seized one [prisoner of war] alive. And the troops are back alive. Of the 200 
[of our troops in the battle] - they were not more numerous than that - not 
one was missing. The Kahateans were defeated good. The Servants of my lord 
were victorious. (L 315) 

Here a battle is described in which 250 soldiers of Mari ambushed and defeated 
700 enemy soldiers. There are a number of uncertainties in this narrative. Yanuh- 
Samar claimed his force suffered no casualties, but reports that 250 soldiers 
attacked and 200 returned safely; is this bad math, or a tacit admission of fifty 
casualties? The enemy left "six corpses" on the field; does this imply that only six 
men were killed, or that they managed safely to carry away the rest of their dead 
and wounded? 24 He also reports that "all" the soldiers of Mari took one prisoner, 
apparently meaning that each soldier took one prisoner, making 200-250 total 
prisoners. Despite these ambiguities, one gets a feel from this report for both the 
chaos of war, and the possibility of an officer exaggerating the extent of his victory. 

As in any age, the panic of troops with low morale or who were surprised could 
cause a quick collapse of resistance (L 346). A defeated enemy might abandon their 
shields and heavy equipment on the battlefield in order to flee more quickly. 
"Those troops [of ours] got going [in battle] and [the enemy was] pushed aside. 
They [the enemy Ekallateans] left their gear behind and their shields lying on the 
ground. [The enemy king] Ishme-Dagan got away by a hair" (L 481). 

Campaigns did not always conclude with battle. One army of 5000 marched off 
to battle, but returned without ever encountering the enemy, to the dismay of the 
king, who protested, "how can 5000 troops return empty handed to the camp?" 
He gave them two days rest then ordered them back to battle (L 458). Armies 
faced each other across a major river to prevent the enemy from crossing (L 500); 
this could create a stand-off where enemies camped on opposite sides of a river 
neither force willing to cross and engage in battle at a disadvantage (L 474, 478) 
Kings might also mobilize their armies, come face-to-face with the enemy, bin 
make peace before the fighting actually began (L 478). 


War prisoners were invariably enslaved and often shared among troops as booty (I 
225, 349), or purchased from the captors by the king (L 467). After one battle, 
each soldier was said to have had one prisoner (L 315). Torture, mutilation, am 
other atrocities were sometimes inflicted upon prisoners in order to terrori 
enemies. Some prisoners had their throats cut or heads severed (ARM 2.33, 48) 
others were impaled on stakes (ARM 13.108). Corpses might be ritually abused 
with heads or other body parts being sent to the king, paraded through town' 
hung on walls of temples in triumph (ARM 2.33, 48), like the fate that befell kn 
Saul and his son Jonathan at Beth-Shan (I Samuel H H 1 M line command* i 


ordered his men to "take along two Hanean [nomads] to the border alive and 
mutilate them at the border. Let them go alive to the [nomad confederation of the] 

oris of Yamina and tell how my lord seized the city of Mishlan by force" (L 283). 

\nother man was tortured to death in a most gruesome manner to terrorize the 


He [a commander] pierced his [a prisoner's] nose and placed a nose-rope in it. 
He opened [wounds] in both thighs, skinned his rib-cage, cut off his ears. 
[The prisoner] passed through agonies. Thirty times they took him [the pris- 
oner] around the city [to terrorize the people in the city, and then killed 
him].. . . His [the prisoner's] father was present. (L 366) 

Important prisoners were frequently executed when captured: "Let him hand 
! he enemy prisoner] Ashkur-Addu over to me, and then I shall cut off his 

ad.. . . Now, let a god hand two or three of my enemies over to me and I shall 
hi off their heads" (L 298). Heads of executed kings or nobles were sent to the 
l< torious king as trophies (L 479). The king of the Turukkean highlanders "cut 
i! the head [of one of Ishme-Dagan 's generals] and sent it to Ishme-Dagan, say- 
it",: 'Herewith the head of one who relied on you' " (L 396). 

Of course the fate of all prisoners was not so gruesome. Though commoners 

re generally enslaved, the elites could hope for prisoner exchange or ransom, 
i isoners were occasionally released and resettled on their lands, as described by 
imsu-iluna of Babylon after his conquest of Eshnunna: 

After two months had passed, having set free and given life to the people of 
the land of Idamaraz who he had taken captive, and the troops of Eshnunna, 
as many prisoners as he had taken, he rebuilt the various fortresses of the land 
of Warum which he had destroyed and regathered and resettled its scattered 
people. (R4:389-90) 

Priests, priestesses, and other religious personnel were sometimes treated with 
rial dignity so as to not offend the gods. In a letter, King Zimri-lim of Mari wrote: 

Indeed, the god Adad of Kulmish must have organized this disruption for the 
sake of his priestesses! On the tablet of captives that I have sent to you the 
priestesses of Kulmish and the priestesses of other gods are listed separately on 
,i different tablet.. . . Give them clothes to wear (ARM 10.123; MK 145). 

When peace was finally established between rival kingdoms, the peace treaties 

mild include not only the large-scale strategic issues, but a number of details 

Concerning prisoners and refugees. A treaty between Shadlash and Neribtum (PH 

■ f'l) from the mid nineteenth century makes special provision for refugees - 

whoevei fled from the war 1 ' to he allowed to return and be restored to their lost 

I md and property (1*1 I V>) I ikew ise an e\< hans-e of prisoners was mandated (PH 55). 


Diplomacy (MK 150-4) 

The Old Babylonian period was an age of complicated diplomatic intrigue ii 
which kings needed to win diplomatic victories to prepare the way for military 
victory. In many ways Hammurabi was victorious in the overall power struggle not 
so much because he was the superior soldier, but because of his diplomatic finesse 
Although details are often lacking, it is clear from surviving diplomatic archives 
such as that of Mari that diplomacy in the ancient Near East was highly sophist i 
cated. Many kings kept permanent ambassadors at rival courts; as today, these men 
often served as spies as well, occasionally distributing judicious bribes. King Zimri 
Lim of Mari kept two ambassador-spies at the court of Hammurabi, Ibalpiel and 
Ibalel (CAH 2/1:180-1). Such spies were used to gather intelligence, both abom 
the general policies and goals of an enemy, and about the specifics of their military 
plans and dispositions (HTO 239-42). Their correspondence with their king 
demonstrates a detailed knowledge of and wide range of interests in all militai \ 

Council meetings between allied princes or their diplomats were summoned t< i 
deal with mutual dangers (PH 27-8). Some used thinly veiled intimidation to 
coerce unwilling allies, along with occasional overt threats of war (PH 28-9). 
Weak rulers groveled to more powerful allies, begging assistance. One weak 
prince, Iluma, wrote to two of his allies: "Apart from you two, I have no broth ei 
[ally] . . . Save me!" (PH 29); "I have taken refuge under you in my fear" 7 (PH 33). 
Yet in another letter he attempts to arrange a secret meeting with only one of tin- 
two (PH 30-1). Diplomats frequently ask each other for intelligence and gossip 
about other rulers, and tell each other of the plans and activities of various rivaK 
(PH 32, 36). 

As with modern diplomacy, the personalities of the rulers and their repre- 
sentatives were often an important factor in the success or failure of negotiations 
One prince in the nineteenth century complained that: he was not being treat e< I 
with the honor he felt was due to him: 

Is the prince who sent you superior to me? Does he have troops superior to 
mine? Or does he rule a land superior to mine? As he rules in his city, I rule in 
my city. As he is the king ofEshnunna, I am the king of the land of Urshitum 
In what way is he superior to me and why does he always send his envoys 
here to take tribute? (PH 79) 

Of course, the very fact that such questions needed to be asked is a reflection of 
the relative unimportance of the king of Urshitum. 

Vassal kings 

Sometimes, when a city was conquered, its former king was replaced by .i govei 
nor of the conqueror (L 482). On other occasions Imu. \.i i kim», who w.i 



1 ieated or forced to submit was allowed to retain his throne, but became a vassal 
4 i he conqueror. These vassals were required to take the "oath of god" that they 
would be loyal to their new overlord, and were expected to provide soldiers, tri- 
bute, and other services to their new master. Kings also had an obligation to pro- 
ide assistance to a vassal who was under attack (WM 48); vassalage to a stronger 
mi Km- could thus be a favorable option when facing an aggressive enemy bent on 
. >vrr thro wing a weak king. This naturally had the potential for creating an unstable 
to ilitical situation, where vassals chafing at the bit of their overlords might seize any 
opportunity for mischief-making or rebellion. Kings might also try to undermine 
4 rival king's vassals by supporting revolts (L 511). 

A major victory in battle could cause cities to shift allegiance rapidly. One 
'inniander reported to Zimri-Lim: 

I kept pulling in city after city [into our alliance], and I was making each 

declare a sacred oath [of loyalty to Zimri-Lim] Now, I caused the land to 

change sides to my lord. May my lord be happy! And may my lord not be late 
| in arriving to take control]. If my lord is late, he must dispatch me troops [in 
his stead], any that may be dispatched, and I shall cause the land of Idamaras 
[and] the upper land to reject the Elamites. (L 501) 

I i a Middle Bronze version of public opinion polling, the commander continued: 

I keep pulling in [information] on the opinion of the commoners of the land, 
and they fall down [in reverence] before my lord [Zimri-Lim].. . . My lord 
must dispatch me 1000 or 2000 troops, and we shall pacify this land. 
Otherwise . . . they will bring up the gods and bind the land up to the [enemy 
king of] Zalmaqum with an oath. I am afraid the land will swear [allegiance] 
in its fear [of Zalmaqum], and matters will become troublesome. My lord 
must dispatch troops quickly. (L 501-2) 

It is important to note that the volatile public opinion of the commoners, with 
mixed loyalties, religious oaths, alternating fear of attack from different kings, 
played an important part in the realistic ability of a king to subjugate new lands or 
maintain control over conquered lands. 

Smaller cities were often treated as feudal property, to be exchanged between 
oilers and given to followers and vassals (L 294, 337). Frequently the citizens of a 
n v were unhappy with new rulers, and sometimes took matters into their own 
i mi ids. When the city of Kahat was conquered by king Haya-Sumu, he installed 
-nc of his soldiers, Attaya, on the throne. There was unhappiness with this move, 
however, requiring that "twenty troops . . . attend him [to protect him from pos~ 
.ihle a ttacks by the citizens].. . . Until things calm down, those troops must attend 
him" (I 299 300, 440). It was always possible that rebellion was simmering 
henc.ith the surface of a c ity. When a vassal king was ready for succession, he 
hail t<> write to his ou-iltud lm pri mission: "lie does not ascend the throne 

'I I 


without [permission from] my lord [king Zimri-Lim]. Write to my lord! A servant 
of my lord must come and let him ascend [the throne]" (L 311, 317). 

In times of crisis, a new king might be installed by a military coup. The city of 
Eshnuna was captured and looted by the Elamites, who did not feel strong enough 
to hold the city and thus withdrew. Thereafter, the surviving army of Eshnuna 
raised one of their commanders to the throne: "The Eshnunakean troops have 
installed a king of their own. The man who was installed to be their king, that man 
is a commoner.. . . His name is Silli-Sim He [had previously] exercised the rank of 
company captain (galku)" (T 328, 506), 


A diplomat of the Mari period summarized the political realities of his age thus: 
"There is no king who is strong by himself: 10 or 15 kings follow Hammurabi of 
Babylon, as many follow Rim-Sin of Larsa, Ibalpiel of Eshnunna and Amutpiel of 
Qatna, while twenty kings follow Yarim-Lim [king] of Aleppo" (ANE 1:99; L 
290). Political power in the Mari period was based on having as many vassals and 
allies as possible: "The spear of Zimri-Lim and [his nomad allies] the Hana is 
strong over all the land, all of it!" (L 290). 

Military treaties were frequently established between rival kings, either to end a 
war or to create a new military alliance. Representatives of the kings would meet 
and discuss the terms, which were often spelled out in great detail. Terms might 
include trade agreements, rights of passage for merchants or armies, extradition 
clauses, mutual defense agreements for allied military operations, and distribution 
of booty after an allied victory Then, as now, different rulers could use different 
interpretations of ambiguous language in order to attempt to manipulate treaties to 
their advantage. Rim-Sin of Larsa, for example, wrote a letter making excuses as 
to why he failed to provide the promised troops for a military operation with his 
ally Hammurabi (CAH 2/1:179). Treaties invariably involved an invocation of the 
gods to witness the oaths. A special religious ceremony was undertaken, usually 
involving a sacrifice, after which both parties swore the "oath of the gods". Each 
party to the treaty received a duplicate copy of the particulars, which were 
deposited in temples for safekeeping (MK 126-7, 140-1). 

Allies were independent kings who were treated as equals, or "brothers" in 
Middle Bronze diplomatic parlance. Many of the Mari tablets center on diploma tit 
negotiations and requests between the allies Zimri-Lim of Mari and Hammurabi 
of Babylon. Though allies were not required to provide each other with troops or 
tribute, there was a strong expectation that they would support one another in 
times of crisis. Allies were expected to honor requests for troops. As Hammurabi 
put it: "when [an allied king] requests troops from me, I will give troops to him to 
let him accomplish his objective. [An ally] who does not dispatch me his troops 
[when I request it], I will give him no troops when he writes to me for troops" 
(L 334, 479). Having an alliance, however, did not preclude the need for hard 
nosed negotiations (L 374, 379—81). It also often me, mi p.ivnu 1 lot u pari ol 

'I ' 


the food and wages of allied troops. The king of Eshnunna, for example, expected 
to be given thirty talents of silver in return for sending troops to assist his ally 
(PH 78). 

Alliances and treaties were always reinforced by a shared sacrifice and mutual 
"oath of the gods" (MK 140-1). We have the text of an alliance treaty between 
I lammurabi and Zimri-Lim, illustrative of the diplomatic mentality of the age: 

[By the sun god] Shamash of the sky, lord of the land, [by the storm god] 
Adad of the sky, lord of determination - by these gods Hammurabi, son of 
Sin-Muballit, king of Babylon [swore]: "From this day, as long as I live, I will 
be an enemy of Siwa-Palar-Huhpak [king of Elam]. I will not [assist him and] 
I will not write to him. Without [the agreement of] Zimri-Lim, king of 
Mari ... I will not make peace with Siwa-Palar-Huhpak" (L 512-13) 

Military cooperation was a key element in a successful alliance. Many of the 

letters discuss plans for different allied units to meet at specified times and places (L 

190). Sometimes, of course, units missed their rendezvous, causing problems and 

■ onfusion: "I waited three days in Terqa and no [allied] troops whatsoever were 

issembled . . . Where are the troops?" (L 191). When an enemy army approached 

Babylon, Hammurabi of Babylon and his then ally Rim-Sin of Larsa made a 

oordinated plan for mutual defense: "My troops are assembled in my land, let 

Our troops be assembled in your land. If the enemy heads for you, my troops and 

mall-boats will get there [to help you]. And if the enemy heads for me, your 

roops and your small-boats must get here" (L 322). In addition to sending troops, 

lilies might send money and grain to support the war effort; Hammurabi sent 

i wo talents of silver [60 kilograms] and 70 bushels [21,000 liters] of grain" to aid 

-lie of his allies (L 327). 

On occasion, however, allies failed to observe the terms of the alliance. When 
he king of Elam invaded Mesopotamia, one of his ministers reported: 

My lord [the King of Elam] wrote me: "Right now Zimri-Lim will go against 
you. And he will stir up the land. Write the Turukkean [highlanders] , and the 
Turukkean will come down to you. [Then] do battle with Zimri-Lim." And 
he wrote to the Turukkeans, and they did not come to him [to help fight 
Zimri-Lim] . (L 294) 

Peace treaties 

W.s! was frequently declared and peace negotiated in the letters. As in all political 
■ stems, there often existed among ancient Mesopotamians real causes and justifi- 

■ .n urns for war which were shrouded in various more or less transparent pretexts. 
! he political order of Mesopotamia was guaranteed by taking oaths by the gods to 

insure proper fulfillment of treaty obligations. Violation of treaties was described in 

'I \ 


terms of violation of the oath to the gods, which was considered justification I 
warfare. Around 1800. "Ila-kabkabu [king of Terqa] and Yagid-Lim [king of Man 
took a grave oath by the god [Nergal] between them and Ila-kabkabu nev< 
committed a sin against Yagid-Lim. [i.e. he never violated the provisions of tl 
treaty]. It is Yagid-Lim who committed a sin against Ila-kabkabu" which led U 
war (PH 68). Thereafter, because of the violation of the oath to Nergal, the g 
"decided to punish [Yagid-Lim] and went to the side of Ila-kabkabu ... [who 
destroyed [Yagid-Lim's] city and defeated his son Yahdum-Lim" in battle (PH 61 
Treaty or covenant violations are thus viewed as violations of oaths and comim 
ments to the gods, who punish the violators by granting military victory to il 
other party of the oath and covenant. 

Peacemaking was accompanied by a shared equid sacrifice and oath- taking, 
shall kill a stallion of peace between me and [the enemy king] Mutebal" (L 19 
Peace was made through diplomatic councils (L 344), exchange of cities or land I 
337), sacred oath taking (L 337, 345), a ritual equid sacrifice (L 344, 351, 36 I 
and sharing food and drink at a feast (L 345). Oaths and divination were requiu i 
to accompany all treaties and alliances; bad omens from extispicy could at lea 
temporarily derail agreements; as one diviner advised: "the sign is not right; wail 
for one month" (PH 31—2). Peacemaking could include an exchange of prison ei 
and captured plunder: "I will release to you your losses [of prisoners, booty, am 
captured land] that I am keeping . . . and you will release my losses" (L 351 , 361 

The specific details of one peace treaty were recorded, requiring a mutu.i 
renunciation of feuding. The defenders required of the attackers: "Do not hunt u 
[for slaves], do not kill us, and do not deport us to another land!" In return the 
people of the city, under the new king installed by their conquerors, were similai l\ 
required: "Do not hunt him [the new king], do not kill him, and do not brim 
your former king back!" (L 350). These peace oaths were often taken very sei 
iously. One allied commander refused to fight with the troops of the ally of an 
enemy because of a sacred peace oath sworn by his own king with the ally of tin 
enemy king (L 346). Such circumstances could obviously very quickly becorri( 
complicated: "Let eternal peace be established between us!" one treaty proclaim*. I 
(L 374) — a peace to end all wars. Unfortunately, like the rest of the world, such 
peace efforts were always temporary in Middle Bronze Mesopotamia. 

M I 


Mesopotamian siegecraft 

I h a-eas battle narratives are relatively rare, sieges (lawitum) were quite common : 

opotamia and are discussed in some detail in the Mari archive, allowing us 

rly good understanding of Mesopotamian siegecraft. 1 Fortification existed : 

opotamia from at least 6000, when Tell al-Sawwan near modern Samar 

fortified with a thick brick wall and a three-meter-wide moat (EA 4:472 

gecraft undoubtedly began when wail building began. By the third millenniu: 

ry major city in Mesopotamia had massive walls. With a large number . 

M.iied towns and cities closely packed into the river valleys, sieges, rather th; 

,» battles, became the normal mode of warfare. If one seeks the face of batt 

t Middle Bronze Mesopotamia, it is not to be found in the open fields 

mbat, but in the long, tiresome, dangerous, desperate, hungry and dirty soldie 

in sieges. 

Pre-Dynastic {3500-3000} 

I he first artistic evidence we have of siegecraft comes from the Pre-Dynasl 
,,od in Mesopotamia {3500-3000}, from the art of the so-called Priest-kii 
- pp. 37-9). Two different cylinder seals show the Priest-king with a drawn be 
1 1 noting at a besieged city. In one scene the defenders are outside the wall in 
lortie, punctured by arrows as they flee (Figure 5a, p. 218). The other scene shev 
the Priest-king with five bound captives, kneeling outside the wall of the city. O 
man on the wall is fighting, while another falls from the ramparts, apparently a: 
result of the archery of the Priest-king (AFC 24, PAE 68/1-2, 70, FI §74. 
A third Pre-Dynastic scene, from Elam, shows a siege with four defenders oi 
three storied rampart wall throwing rocks, or perhaps sling-stones, at besiegi 
lolders on the ground below (FI §748). Archaeological evidence from destruet. 
levels .it some sites provides confirmation that sieges occurred, and that the rest 
of defeat could be devastating. Although the seals show us that sieges occurn 
unfortunately show us little about how sieges were actually conducted I 
I111)M . information we aie reamed to wail a number oi centuries until the mai 
M i i iptions oi the All uii n 



Early Dynastic and Akkadian siegecraft {2500-2200} 

For the last half of the Early Bronze Age we have two cylinder seals which prob- 
ably depict sieges, as well as a number of incidental references to sieges in 
inscriptional sources. Overall, the data is slim, but sufficient for a basic outline of 
early Mesopotamian siegecraft. 

Later texts from the Old Babylonian period {1800-1600} describe two major 
types of siege engines, the battering ram (yassabum or asubum) (CAD 1/2:428-9) 
and the siege tower (dimtum) (CAD 3:144-7), which will be discussed in detail on 
pp. 229—30; they are generally mentioned together in most Old Babylonian siege 
descriptions. Ironically, although our earliest texts about sieges do not mention 
these siege engines, two cylinder seals depict sieges using what are very probably 
the ram and tower. 

The first seal, from the late Early Dynastic period, is unfortunately badly worn 
(Figure 5f, p. 21 9). 2 In the center a tower or city wall is under siege, with two men 
on the ramparts, one facing right and one facing left. The building is shown with at 
least two stories. If the proportional heights of the men to the wall is accurate, the 
wall would be about 20-25 feet tall. To the right of the wall stands a large siege 
tower (dimtum). It rests on a base roughly the size of a four-wheeled war-cart. The top 
of the tower overtops the wall slightly. A man on the top of the tower is attacking a 
man on the wall. Two other men appear in the tower on two different stories, 
indicating the tower has a base level on the vehicle, a middle level, and a top 
platform. To the right of the tower five men are shown; although a ladder is not 
clearly visible, I interpret these men as climbing up ladders which are resting 
against the back of the siege tower. The tower protects the men from missiles shot 
from the city and allows the men rapidly to ascend the tower for an assault on the 
wall. To the left of the city wall we see the same type of four-wheeled vehicle, but 
this one is without a tower. Three men may be standing in the vehicle, while a 
fourth stands behind it. There are no equids pulling the vehicle and its front rests 
near the wall. There appears to be a knob projecting from the vehicle against the 
walL I interpret this to be a ram (yassabum) smashing into the side of the wall. Above 
this vehicle two men, seeming to float in the air, are probably ascending ladders to 
assault the wall. If one compares this ram with similar, more detailed renderings 
from the Assyrian period, it appears they are quite similar in form (AW 2:401). 

Recently-published cylinder seals from Tell Beydar (Nabada) {c. 2400—2250] 
in north-eastern Syria show another very early depiction of the siege tower and 
battering ram (Figure 5g, p. 219; EEH 116 §10-11). Here we again see a four- 
wheeled vehicle with a three-storied tower upon it: the base, resting on the 
wheels, a middle level, and an upper platform on which stand two men. Behind 
the tower stands another four-wheeled vehicle with some type of protective cover 
on it and a large projecting beam. This second vehicle is again similar in general 
form to later Assyrian siege rams (AW 2:388, 391, 407-8, 413, 422-5). 

Another seal (EEH 116 §10) shows two four-wheeled vehicles with square 
boxes on them. They are not in the standard shape of eliai ints. .unl have no equids 



iilling them. Instead each has a long rope in front, perhaps used by men to pull it. 

I be scene is a martial one, for there are two dead bodies and men with long hafted 

| u es. One of the vehicles is empty, but the other has three men standing it, with 

uly their chests and heads protruding above the walls of the vehicle. These are 

.haps wheeled heavy shield platforms that could be used as a portable wall. The 

hides could be pulled into position and the wooden walls of the vehicle would 

I vc as a shield wall, behind which the soldiers could shoot missiles, undermine a 

mfication, or throw baskets of dirt to make a ramp. This vehicle may be the 

nigmatic samukanum (CAD 15:132), occasionally mentioned along with the ram 

lower as a siege device: "even if the Amorites should make war for ten years 

iul bring ten battering rams ([y]asubum), ten siege towers (dimtum) and twenty 

mukanu, I will remain strong in my city" (OBLTA 14, 46-7). The Epic ofGilgamesh 

cribes "a battering ram that destroys the walls of the enemy" (EOG 49), but we 

- not know how far back that element of the tale originates. 

When a city faced the imminent threat of a siege, special precautions were 

J en. Walls are described as being strengthened and repaired in the face of ene- 

iii. s (LKA 329). Special guards were mounted on the wall when the city was 

mder threat: a garrison at Eshnunna was informed that the Amorite warlord 

ikhada has taken two thousand Amorites and they are marching against you. It 

urgent. Do not do any work [in the fields outside the city]. Night and day the 

uard should not come down from the wall" (OBLTA 44). 

hi such circumstances the assistance of the gods was always invoked. A garrison 
i ..nmander assured the king of Eshnunna that "the city is safe. The omen report 
■ tticerning my lord is strong. My lord should not worry" (OBLTA 46). Religious 
.»ns and standards were placed on city walls and gates to assure divine protection. 

|The god Ningirsu's weapon] "Slaughterer-of-a-myriad" he drove in [the 
wall] as a huge banner at Lagash; he had it placed at [the gate] Shugalam, the 
dreadful site. He let terror emanate from it; from the dais of Girnun, where 
judgment is issued, the provider of Lagash [Ningirsu] lifted horns like a 
mighty bull. (R3/l:83) 

We have a few incidental references to siegecraft in Akkadian and Neo-Sumerian 
ir.nptions. The most important method described in the texts is undermining 
pilshum), when the attackers simply dug through the mud brick wall. Shulgi's armies 
are described as "ripping out the brickwork of the foundations of the walls 
|ol l)er|" (R3/2:103; R2:135; LKA 123-5). The fact that most fortifications in 
Mesopotamia were built from sun-dried bricks meant that undermining the walls 
amounted essentially to digging through dry clay. Although specifically describing 
the building of a temple, an inscription from Ur-Bau of Lagash gives us an idea of the 
I his! ruction procedures: "I excavated a large building plot [x] cubits deep; its earth 
I shifted like gems . . . This earth I then returned from there. I piled up the foundation. 
< )ver it I built a retaining wall, 10 cubits (5 meters) high, and over the sustaining wall I 
built the Eninnu |temple| ... U) cubits (15 meters) high" (R3/l:19, cf. R2:80-2). 






Figure 5: Archery and siege techniques (drawings by Michael Lyon) 


The early Mesopotamian "Priest-king" shooting his enemies with a bow 

during a siege of a city, {32— 31C}; cylinder seal from Susa, Iran; see FI §743 
(b) Craftsmen making bows and javelins {32— 31C}; cylinder seal from Uruk, 

Iraq; see FI §742. 

Incised plaque depicting spearman with shield protecting an archer; Man, 

Syria {26-23C} (Museum of Deir ez-Zor, Syria 11233); see AFC 158 §99. 
d) Naram-Sin, king of Akkad, striding forward in victory with bow and axe oi 

mace; victory relief of Naram-Sin from Darband-i Gawr, Iran {23C}; sec 








(e) Akkadian archer with quiver and drawn bow; fragment of stele attributed to 
the period of Rimush {2278-2270} (from Telloh, Iraq; Louvre AO 2678)- 
see AFC 201 §129a. 

(£) Badly worn cylinder seal depicting a Mesopotamian siege tower (dimtum) and 
ram (yassabum) assaulting a city; southern Mesopotamia {mid-third millen- 
nium} (Antiquity Department of the Royal Museums of Art and History, 
Brussels, O 437); see FI §749. 

(g) Akkadian siege tower and ram; cylinder seal from Nabada (Tell Beydar, Syria) 
{24-23C}; see EEH 116 §11. 


The walls were massive, and the difficulty of undermining would be increased 
by the enemy harassing the diggers from the walls with missiles, sling stones, and 
rocks, but there were no fundamentally insurmountable engineering problems. 
Given sufficient manpower, it was essentially a matter of time until an attacking 
force could undermine the walls, create a breach, and assault through the breach. 

Armies would on occasion march near a city, challenging the garrison to fight 
in open combat, hoping to avoid a lengthy siege (R2: 105-6). The defenders might 
come out and fight to prevent their land from being devastated by the besiegers. 
Gilgamesh marched outside the walls to defeat Agga who was besieging Uruk 
(EOG 145-8). Likewise, Naram-Sin marched out from the protection of the city 
walls to drive off Iphur-Kish, who was besieging his capital (R2: 104-6). 

For the most part we have few descriptions of actual sieges; the scribes are content 
merely to state that a city was taken (R2:14, 41). Akkadian inscriptions include 
numerous references to the destruction of the walls of conquered cities, a frequent 
practice for defeated cities (R2:14, 28, 41, 52-5; R4:149). It is not clear from the 
evidence precisely what the destruction of these walls entailed; it seems most likely 
that it was the destruction of key sections of walls and city gates rather than the 
complete leveling of the walls, which would have been a massive undertaking. 

The most detailed account of a siege from this early period comes from an 
inscription of Nararn-Sin's siege of Armanum (Aleppo). 

When the god Dagan determined the verdict [of battle in favor of] Naram 
Sin, the mighty [the god Dagan] delivered into his hands Rid-Adad, king ol 
Armanum, and [Naram-Sin] personally captured him in the midst of his [city 
or palace?] gateway. . . From the fortification wall [of Armanum- Aleppo J to 
the great wall: 130 cubits [c. 65 meters] is the height of the hill [and] 44 cubi 
[22 meters] is the height of the wall. From the quay wall to the fortification 
wall: 180 cubits [c. 90 meters] is the height of the hill [and] 30 cubits is the 
height of the wall. Total: 404 cubits [c. 200 meters] in height, from ground 
[level] to the top of the [highest part of the] wall [of the citadel] . He under 
mined the city [wall] Armanum [causing a breach which allowed the city to 
betaken]. (R2: 132-5) 

The figures given here for Armanum, which may be exaggerated, seem to repre 
sent the overall height of the earlier levels of the tell, an outer wall, and then an 
inner citadel wall on top of the acropolis. Naram-Sin says he took the city by 
undermining the wall, which presumably created a breach into which the Akka 
dian army attacked. 

Part of the later literary legend of Sargon describes an assault through a breach: 

Sargon undermined [the walls of] the city, broadened the Gate of the Princes, 
[he made a breach] two iku [110 meters] wide. He cast it down; in the highest 
part of its wall he made a breach; he smote all c^f his wine intoxicated men 
Sargon placed his throne before the gate. Sargon open', his mouth, speaking to 


his warriors, he declares, "Come on! Nur-Daggal [the enemy king] . . . Let 
him stir himself] Let him humble himself! Let me behold [him surrender]." 
(LKA 123-5) 

However, siegecraft was not always successful, and sieges often turned into 
blockades which could last for months. A siege of Kullab by the army of Uruk is 
described in the Epic of Lugalbanda: 

Like a snake traversing a grain pile, [the army] crossed over the foothills 

But when they were but one double-mile from the city, 

[The soldiers of] both Uruk and Kullab threw themselves down prone 

In Aratta's field watchtowers and dikes, 

For from the city darts rained like rain 

And from Aratta's walls clay slingstones came clattering 

As hailstones come in spring. 

Days passed, the months lengthened, the year returned to its mother. 

A yellowed harvest was about to grow up under heaven . . . 

But no man knew how to go to the city, 

Was able to push through to go to Kullab. (HTO 336-7) 

With the siege in a stalemate, Lugalbanda seeks an oracle from Inanna, who tells 
him to fell a certain tamarisk tree and make a sacrifice of sacred fish from the 
i anals before Inanna's battle standard A'ankara (HTO 341-4). Although the end of 
i he epic is lost, it is clear that the divination and sacrifice is successful and the city 
is taken. Whatever one may think of the intercession of Inanna in the siege, 
Mesopotamians frequently used divination, oracles, and magic as mechanisms to 
revitalize flagging morale. A favorable sign from the gods could encourage men to 
"lie last effort to break a stalemate. Bad omens might be sufficient to break a siege. 
Thus, although the details are generally not known, it is clear from both tex- 
1 1 ml, artistic, and archaeological evidence that the Akkadians were masters at sie- 

v craft. It was this skill, more than any other, that allowed them to create their 

mpire. Indeed, it could be argued that the Akkadian military revolution was one 
-I siegecraft; they discovered the right balance of technologies and methods that 
permitted them to take cities faster and with fewer resources than had been pos- 

ible before. This created a sort of force multiplier that allowed their army to 
a< complish more in a given year than other armies could. The basic principles of 

\l kadian siegecraft - towers, rams, and undermining - would remain the standard 
trsenal of weapons against cities throughout the Middle Bronze Age, a period for 
which we have much greater source materials on siegecraft. 

Siegecraft in the Old Babylonian period {1800-1600} 

i hanks to the Mari an hive (ARM), we are better informed about siegecraft in the 
< >U Babylonian period than about any other time in the Harly or Middle Bronze 

' Ml 



ages. Although we have no artistic representations of sieges for this period, our 
textual information gives us an excellent understanding of siege craft in the age of 


The nature of siegecraft in any age is based upon the nature of fortifications. 
Defense of cities was a primary concern of Mesopotamian kings (WM 158-60). 
The basic defense pattern of cities is described in one report: "The inner city wall 
is surrounded by an outer wall, and the palace [citadel] by an outer wall and a 
moat" (ARM 6.29; WM 158). Some of the larger cities had concentric fortifica- 
tions, with outer walls (durum) around the main city as well as inner fortifications 
(salhum) for the citadel which could be defended separately, and to which the 
population could retreat if the outer city fell (MM 4; MK 145; Figure 6, p. 267). 

When city walls were destroyed by old age, natural disaster, or enemy attacks, 
soldiers were used as labor crews to repair them (L 231, 497; MM 4). Royal 
inscriptions frequently describe the fortifications built by the king; Gudea of 
Lagash, for example, built fortifications (E3/l:lll, 128) and restored a city gate 
(E3/ 1:147, 161). Babylonian kings also describe "levying of the army of my land" 
for military construction projects (R4:335, 377). In a sense, soldiers were a form 
of labor conscription, and, like later Roman legionaries, could be used as ordinary 

On the other hand, repairs were often put off until the enemy was at the gates: 

The city where our lord is staying is not in good repair. Already before an 
alarm of the coming [of enemy] troops is heard, our lord must give strict 
orders to guards and border guards outside. They must not be negligent.. . . 
He must not neglect the guard of the wall. Here, we are very concerned 
about the guard of the wall and the city gates. (L 242) 

Brick walls required regular repair, and numerous inscriptions describe the 
building or refurbishing of city walls. Shu-ilishu {1984—1975} rebuilt the walls of 
his capital Isin (R4:19). A century later, Enlil-bani of Isin{ 1860-1837} found it 
necessary to "build anew the wall of Isin which had become dilapidated" (R4:80). 
A letter requests bricks to repair a "wall (L 376). In reality, the -walls of major cities 
probably required frequent if not constant upkeep. 3 In 1733 Samsu-iluma repaired 
six forts which "in their old age had fallen into ruin of their own accord" 
(R4:381-2). Repair projects usually took several months (R4:382, 390). Nur- 
Adad of Larsa {1865-1850} lists the daily wages of each worker on his walls, giv 
ing a sense of the expense of such repairs. 4 

Warad-sin {1834—1823} describes his monumental rebuilding of the walls of Ur: 

[At the] fine base [of the walls of Ur] the [Sumerian] people multiply ami art- 
able to save their lives. The god Nanna entrusted m< Hi. building of |Ur\| 

wall. In the course of that year five months had not passed when I baked its 
backs. I finished the great wall and raised up its parapet. Like a verdant 
mountain I caused it to grow up in a pure place. I made its height surpassing, 
had it release its terrifying aura. I raised its head commensurate with its name 
and greatness. I caused it to shine forth splendidly to the wonder of the 
nation. I chose the place for my royal foundation inscription in its foundation 
and raised the head of its gate there. I made its fosse strong, circled it with 
bricks, and dug its moat. I built for him [the god Nanna] the great wall, [the 
top of] which like a mountain raised high cannot be touched.. . . I surrounded 
his [Nanna's] city. The name of that wall is "The god Nanna makes the 
foundation of the land firm". 5 

Samsu-iluna, son of Hammurabi, also has a detailed description of the city walls 
-I Kish: "by means of the labor of his army [Samsu-iluna] built the city of Kish 
I le dug its canal, surrounded it with a moat, and with a great deal of earth made its 
Foundations firm as a mountain. He formed its bricks and built its wall. In the 

ourse of one year he made its head rise up more than it had been before" 


Many walls had water-filled moats surrounding them (LKA 329; MM 4). Abi- 
are of Larsa describes digging "the canal of the wall of Larsa" (LYN 13). Anam of 
I folk in the nineteenth century provides more details: he "restored the wall of 
l folk - the ancient work of divine Gilgamesh ... in baked bricks in order that the 
jWter might roar in [the wall's] surrounding [moat]" (R4:474-5). Hammurabi 
..used the head of the wall of Sippar with earth like a great mountain. I encircled 
I with a swamp" (R4:348), probably referring to a moat (ASD 15). Likewise 
Samsu-iluna of Babylon "surrounded Nippur with a moat. He dug the Euphrates 
md made the wall reach the bank of the Euphrates" (R4:374, 390). The moat was 
quently simply the quarry pit from which the earth was taken to build the wall 
Samsu-iluna claims that "in the course of two months, on the bank of the Turul 
! iver, he built Fort Samsu-iluna. He dug its surrounding moat, piled up its earth 
lliere, formed its bricks, and built its wall. He raised its head like a mountain" 
I' 1:390-1). 

( rates (abullum) of the city were often massive; up to six meters hio-h and built of 
".-ported cedar wood (ARM 3.10; MM 4), with bronze reinforcing and bolts 
KA 199, 215). An artist's depiction of a Middle Bronze gate survives in a small 
pbque (SDA 291c). It shows high brick walls with crenellations, and a large gate- 
• .v with a brick arch and projecting towers. A similar surviving arched gate and 
tretch of wall can be seen at Tell Dan in Israel (ALB 208; Figure 7, p. 278). Like 
..Ik gates needed to be regularly repaired: one city ordered the construction of a 
|«f City gate (L 263). City gates were frequently named after gods. In Sippar two 
gtes were named after the gods Nungal and Shamash, while a third was named 
"Stairway Gate", presumably because it included a stair leading to the ramparts 
I iiy -.Hi. ials included the ( u.ekeeper (.„■/,„ abiillim), who was in charge of security, 
"•'•h. control, and dnl\ . i>llr. tinn i ASI > |, Id. 85; cl". IITO 175) 

i > i 


Preparations for a siege 

When a city faced imminent threat, special precautions were taken. Walls arc 
described as being strengthened and repaired in the face of enemies (LKA 32*> ) 
Border guards (bazahatum) manned outposts and patrolled the land, watching foi 
enemy raiders and troop movements (L 573, 382, 393; MM 5, 7). Such patrol 
were reported to have ranged fifty kilometers from their bases (L 482). This type 
of duty was considered onerous: "the guarding of a city is a hard [duty]; and the i * 
are few troops available" (L 449). When there was fear of approaching eneim 
troops, the scouts, outposts, and city-guards were increased: "Because an alarm 
[caused by the enemy's approach] might be heard, we ordered a herald [to be 
ready] to call it out over the town.. . . Our lord must give strict orders to keep th< 
guards of the wall and outposts at the ready by night and siesta" (L 239—40). 
During wartime, officers inside cities were required to report daily to the corn 
mander at the main city gate-fortress to receive their orders (L 462). Beacon fires 
were lit to alert the surrounding regions of approaching enemies (L 398; MM 10; 
WM 119-21), as described in a dispatch: 

I departed from Mari, and spent the night at Zuruban. All the Banu-Yamina 
[nomad confederacy] raised fire signals. From Samanum to Ilum-Muluk, from 
Ilum-Muluk to Mishlan, all the cities of the Banu-Yamina of the Terqa distrii i 
raised fire signals in response, and so far I have not ascertained the meaning oi 
those signals. Now I shall determine the meaning, and I shall write to my Ion I 
whether it is thus or not. Let the guard of the city of Mari be strengthened 
and let my lord not go outside the gate! (ANET 482a) 

Fire signals could thus inform a ruler of a danger and perhaps the direction the 
danger was coming from, but additional information had to be obtained by field 
officers and reported in dispatches. 

As an enemy army approached, sheep and other livestock were collected into 
safe areas (L 394); the king would "gather before him [in his city] oxen, sheep, and 
his population that were loyal to him" (PH 78). Border guards also went on patrol 
to capture enemy agents or stragglers, and sent dispatches with reports of enemy 
troop movements back to the commanders (L 383). When a major enemy army 
approached, the border guards alerted the regiment in the city, but were unable to 
offer more than nominal resistance, as one report indicated: "the [advancing] 
enemy has pushed the border guards out of the way" (L 243). 

Standing orders were given to move people and troops into the city upon the 
approach of the enemy: "when the enemy comes, let those seeking refuge enter 
the strongholds" (L 398, 247, 315, 361; MM 6). Supplies and provisions were also 
gathered into the city in preparation for a siege. Cattle and sheep were brought 
into the city for protection and kept in the peoples' houses (L 466). As an Elamitr 
army approached Babylon, Hammurabi ordered: "[The enemy| will soon cross tin 
border. Collect cattle and grain, straw, small boys, |sm.tl1 -nl ill oi thcin| ami 

' ' I 


ting them into Babylon!" (L 320). Panic might spread among the population as 
nemy pillaged their land and surrounded their city (L 317). 

Offensive first moves 

in first approaching a city an army often tried to make a surprise attack, cap- 
ing the city before it could prepare a proper defense (L 314). On occasion, a 

that was surprised could fall to a conqueror in a single day. "During that same 

In, troops [of king Haya-Sumu] went to [the city of] Kahat and, upon their 

1 1, seized the city of Kahat and caught [its king] Kapiya. Attaya, who is with 

i Sumu, ascended [the former Kapiya s] throne on that early morning" (L 
The potential of surprise attack necessitated constant vigilance by both 
N kers and defenders. During time of war soldiers were constantly admonished 
be on the alert: "I am afraid [that the enemy king] Ishme-Dagan may be 
ibled, through some negligence [of the soldiers], to do harm in the encamp- 
nt" (L359). 

II .i surprise attack failed, cities were frequently given a chance to surrender 
►re the siege formally commenced. One surrendered three days after a siege 
hi (L 350). Most cities, however, seemed to have rejected these initial overtures 

I I I lender, preferring instead to make at least nominal resistance. For example, 
>ne siege, "after he [the enemy king] laid siege to the city, he offered it peace 

II kept his troops in place. And he requested [the surrender of the besieged city's] 

rhey [the city] did not give [their king] to him [the enemy king]" (L 399). If 

ii y surrendered on terms, it was spared looting; if it fought on and was taken by 

lull, it could be plundered and destroyed, and its population taken as slaves 

MM 48). Hammurabi instructed his commanders of his policy towards Mashkan- 

npir, a major city in the kingdom of Larsa in southern Mesopotamia: 

II you succeed [in negotiating a surrender], and if the city opens [its gates] in 
front of you, accept its peace! Even if he [the commander] violates the oath by 
[the gods] Shamash and Marduk, [do not plunder] that city! If the city does 
not open [its gates, besiege it] and send for me [for reinforcements]! (L 333) 

In s policy created a psychological crisis for the defenders of the town as they saw 

C siege ramp daily progressing towards their walls (L 352). As it turned out in this 

the city of Mashkan-Shapir did not immediately surrender, but as the siege 

rngrcssed, the besieged army began to lose heart as they saw Hammurabi's siege 

imp, ladders, towers, and rams moving closer. Hammurabi's commander reported: 

I hey | the army of Larsa] are dreading an assault [by the Babylonians].. . . Sin- 
Muballit, the brother of Rim-Sin [king of Larsa] ... is surrounded [by the 
liabylonian .umy] in the city of Mashkan Shapir. And the land of Larsa dreads 
m assault and he |Sm Miilul!n| is about to change side's. |Then] the city of 
M.i'. hk. in Si l.i p 1 1 will opi n it-, lutes liner <n loin days from now. (L 334) 

• >, 


It is not clear if the city eventually surrendered or was taken by assault, but Ham- 
murabi was victorious and moved on to capture the capital Larsa and annex the 
entire kingdom. 

Sometimes an attacker would give the defender an ultimatum, allowing him a 
few days to surrender a city before the battle began in earnest. This was potentially 
dangerous, however, since it gave the defenders an opportunity to receive rein- 
forcements. One Mario te commander, Buqaqum, reported: 

Five thousand men [of Marij are fortifying the city of Yabliya. And [the 
enemy general] Shallurum is strengthening Harbe together with 15,000 
men.. . . Shallurum spoke ... as follows: "I will wait five days for you [to 
withdraw from the city], then [if you do not] I will commence fighting." A 
rescue detachment [from Mari] must get here soon [or the city will surren- 
der]. (T 383, 384) 

If a relief army came they might camp near the camp of the attackers, hoping to 
force the enemy to withdraw. When facing an enemy relief force, the commander 
of one siege hoped he could lure the enemy out to an open battle: "when I lay 
siege to the city, and he [the enemy relief army] quits his camp and sets himself in 
motion toward me, at that time I will do battle" (T 418). 


If a city refused to surrender, the next alternative was assault, which could be dif 
ficult and costly to both sides. Whenever Mesopotamian soldiers campaigned in 
close proximity to the enemy they built fortified encampments (nawum) (L 193 
319, 320, 328), especially when besieging an enemy city (L 457). Such camps were 
often built by the gates of a city to prevent the besieged people from leaving, 
communicating, or receiving reinforcements (L 301, 346). One fortified camp is 
mentioned as being about three kilometers from the city under siege (T 400). II 
the armies remained in encampments for a long period of time they built houses 
and towers (L 468). When two allied armies besieged the same city, they built 
separate encampments for each army (L 275, 346). If enough troops were available 
the city would be completely surrounded (L 309). 

Attackers would generally plunder the countryside for food and attempt to 
ambush and capture anyone coming in or out of the city (L 316). If possible they 
would attack at harvest time, harvesting the fields to feed the besieging army while 
the enemy watched hungrily from their city (L 324, 396). Besieging armies natu- 
rally had their own problems with supplies. One group complained that "the) 
transport water to the troops day and night from five kilometers away. Who from 
among the two to three thousand [enemy troops in the besieged city] might attack the 
water carriers?" (L 497). Night operations were also sometimes undertaken (L 358) 

The size of armies besieging cities could vary greatly, depending on the si, 
the city being attacked. Vast forces were not neccssai \\\ n<< T J I i\, hundred men 



captured the small town of Tilla (L 455). The siege of Shehna was undertaken by 
2000 men (L 301), while the same number took Urgish (L 455). A major city, 
however, like Shubat-Enlil, required at least 4000 men to besiege it (L 455), and 

ometimes more (L 383). The size of defending armies also varied. Royal garrisons 
of towns were often very small: 20 (L 299), 50 (L 312), and 100 (L 314) men are 
mentioned, though those numbers would swell dramatically when war began, by 
reinforcements and conscription of the city militia into service. One city was 
strongly defended by a garrison of 300 (L 352). The city of Ashihum was defended 
by "1000 good troops", which allowed that commander to make numerous sorties 
(L 346). 

Once a city was blockaded and defensive camps constructed, the attacker had to 
decide on the best approach to assault the city. One method was to attempt to 
undermine (pilsum) the walls causing them to collapse (ARM 1.35; WM 171). 
Ishme-Dagan successfully took the city of Qirhadat with this technique: "As soon 
is I had approached the town of Qirhadat I set up siege towers. By sapping I 
I uised its walls to collapse. On the eighth day I seized the city of Qirhadat. 
Rejoice!" (ARM 1.135; WM 172). 

The preferred technique for besiegers, however, was to construct siege equip- 
ment and a siege ramp (epirum) (L 321, 328, 331, 356; WM 171). The purpose of 

be siege ramp was to provide access to the upper wall for ladders, mobile siege 
towers and rams, as exemplified in a siege by Ishme-Dagan: 

The town of Nilimrnar that Ishme-Dagan besieged, Ishme-Dagan has [now] 
taken. As long as the siege-ramps did not reach to the heights of the top of the 
city [wall], he could not seize the town. As soon as the siege-ramps reached 
the top of the city [wall], he gained mastery over this town. (ARM 1.4; WM 173) 

lake Roman legionnaires, soldiers of Bronze Age Mesopotamia were fre- 
quently used in military engineering, building fortified camps and siege ramps, as 

II as defensive engineering activities. Although a relatively small army could 
besiege a town, the construction of a siege ramp was a major operation requiring a 
great deal of labor. While the soldiers certainly provided manual labor for siege 
ngineering, they were frequently helped by corvee laborers (L 318-19). 

Mesopotamian engineers had turned siegecraft into a science, creating mathe- 
i m.i Meal exercises that allowed them to calculate the volume of earth, number of 
men, and time it would take to construct a siege ramp reaching a given height. 6 
According to one problem, the engineers had to build a ramp to assault a wall 22 
meters high. The ramp began 240 meters from the city wall, and was 36 meters 
ide. The ramp progressed slowly towards the wall, leaving an ever decreasing gap 
i ween the unfinished end of the ramp and the wall. This was presumably done 

i as much of the work on the ramp could be done as far away from the city 
■ ill is possible. The reason that siege ramps were preferable to undermining the 
• ill is probably thai all ol ihe operation of undermining had to occur directly 
imilei the wall, anil therefore was more vulnerable to enemy attacks. 

> i | 


The rampart and wall of the besieged city in this mathematical problem was 22 
meters high; 7 the total height of the ramp at 48 meters from the wall was said to be 
only 18 meters. It is unclear if the end of the ramp was intended to reach a total 
height of 22 meters, or if it leveled off at 18 meters high for the last part of ramp. 
A gap of 4 meters (13 feet) between the top of the wall and the end of the ramp 
could be bridged by siege towers and ladders. There would be no need to con- 
struct rams, ladders, and siege towers, which were always used on the ramps, if the 
end of the ramp reached the height of the wall. If this interpretation is correct, it 
gives us a good sense that a Mesopotamian siege tower was about five meters tall, 
which corresponds with our artistic evidence discussed elsewhere (see pp. 216—7). 
Wooden planks ( GI ^.arammum) were laid down to form a more solid pathway up 
which the towers and rams could be pushed (WM 180 nl6). 

According to this hypothetical mathematical problem, it would take 9500 men, 
each carrying two cubic meters of earth per day, only five days to build a siege 
ramp to the top of the wall. This number, however, was derived from a hypothe- 
tical mathematical exercise assuming ideal conditions. It does not take into account 
the number of men who would have to blockade the city or protect the camp. It 
does not consider that some of the men would be required to gather and prepare 
supplies for food, or that some men would be sick or injured. Most importantly, it 
doesn't deal with the reality of building the ramp in the face of enemy missiles and 
sorties, requiring men with shields to defend the workers, slowing the work and 
creating casualties. In reality it probably took several weeks to build such a siege 
ramp, even with 10,000 men. Most importantly, however, this hypothetical mili- 
tary engineering exercise does not match the reality of the size of actual besieging 
armies in the Middle Bronze, which seldom numbered 10,000 men. None the 
less, given the right men and circumstances, towns could fall to an assiduous 
attacker in a week. Ishme-Dagan, son of Shamshi-Adad, reported, "I set up a 
tower and a battering ram against [the town of Hurara] , and in seven days I cap- 
tured that town" (ARM 1.131); and on another occasion "As soon as I had 
approached the town of Qirdahat, I set up a tower and made its wall fall down by 
tunneling, and in eight days I captured the town" (ARM 1.135; cf. 1.138). 

No artistic depictions of siege ramps, ladders, rams, or siege towers exist from 
the Middle Bronze period, but they were probably broadly similar to the Early 
Bronze representations discussed on pp. 216—7 (Figure 5£-g, p. 219), and to the 
Assyrian practices of a thousand years later as depicted in the much later Assyrian 
martial murals (AW 2:406-49). Siege ramps and other siege earthworks were gen- 
erally taken down after a siege (T 459), meaning that they survive archaeologically 
only if the city was captured, destroyed, and never reinhabited. An Assyrian ramp, 
from the siege of Lachish in Judea, was discovered during the excavations of 
Tachish. 8 Indeed, most of the elements found in later Assyrian siegecraft of the 
early first millennium seem to have been developed by the Middle Bronze Age. 

While the siege ramp was being constructed, special craftsmen were busy 
building the ladders, siege towers, and battering rains fur use in .iss.mlting the wall 
when the ramp was completed/' They were gcnrr.illx in d miiiuIi innuisly in .in 



assault; frequently the attacker is said to have only a single ram and tower (ARM 
1.131, 135), or sometimes only two (L 457). The construction of these devices 
was difficult, requiring skilled craftsmen and special materials (ARM 6 65) The 
precise details of these siege engines are not know, but their basic function seems 

Ladders {simmiltum) (L 205) were obviously devices that allowed the soldier* to 

scale the last part of a wall once the S1 ege ramp had reached it. A large number 

were used m sieges, and were stored after siege for reuse and transported to the 

lege by boat or cart. Commanders felt an assault on a city wall could not be 

undertaken without sufficient ladders: 

About the [siege] ladders that Ibal-Pi-El brought into [the city of] Rapiqum - 
they are being kept inside Rapiqum. And there are no boats inside Rapiqum 
for bringing them upstream to Hurban [the city that is being besieged]. We 
lack ladders. If it pleases our lord, we must not have a lack of ladders. (L 393) 

Battering rams {yaskbum) were used to break down walls or gates 10 They were 
I- used from the top of siege ramps. Battering rams were sometimes used to 
reak down revetment walls supporting earthworks; it was possible that when the 

utment walls collapsed, the slumping earthworks would bury the ram (L 479) 
liege towers (dimtum) do not seem to have been extraordinarily tall - perhaps 

out five to six meters." They were essentially strengthened and protected lad- 

rs allowing the soldiers to assault the top of the wall from the sieg^ ramp 
BOther siege device which seems to have been part of the tower is the "leaner" 

•Mftt] I (L 205-6, 393); it is either some type of ladder, or a gangplank that was 
■red by ropes from the top of the siege tower onto the top of the wall The 

ival of 500 reinforcements with a siege tower caused consternation for a 

teged garrison commander, but he vowed to continue the fight: "[even] if he 
mies with a [siege] tower, I will not permit him to enter the city" (L 305) 
bwers could be disassembled, moved, and used in another siege (L 470).' 

< )u some occasions the siege equipment was constructed at a distance and 

imported to the site of the siege, either by boat (ARM 2.107 2 110 14 45) or by 

I heeled vehicles (ARM 2.7, 2.15). Shamshi-Adad ordered the transport of siege 

qu.pment by river and land: "as soon as they have brought the siege towers and 

battering ram upstream to Man they should load them on wagons" In th^ 

itter case, it is not clear if the disassembled parts of the tower and ram were 

DSported by cart, or if the tower and ram were built on wheels and moved on 

U own. The latter option is probably indicated by the siege representations of 
I Early Bronze period, discussed on p. 216, which show siege towers and rams 

Wheels. As m the Middle Ages, siege engines were given special names by the 
diers; one was called haradan - wild donkey (ARM 6.63; CAD 6:88) which 

''"''"y- '" a Latln for "> ""•«"•. was used by the Romans fora type of catapult' 

'' ° ,Ikt l, '" u1 - su W equipmcnl was often built at the site of the siege The 

V "' l "' ! ' 1, 'l' ul,U lni,Ml "!' "'' 'Im.uglH,, ,s. „f ,| U . Mesopotamian 




floodplain caused difficulties for sieges, requiring that either siege equipment 01 
good timber be shipped to the site of the siege. One general asked the king to ship 
in special wood for building siege equipment. 

About cutting trees for xattassi 12 and axletrees for a battering ram and towers, 
of which my lord wrote - [we need] straight stems which are suitable fot 
xattassi, and axletrees do not exist on the bank of the Habur [River, a tribu- 
tary of the Euphrates], and cornel wood, straight stems, do not exist. (L 414) 

Another commander had put his assault on hold while waiting for good 
building timber to build thirty ladders for a siege. 

Load on one boat those pines from the dry pines that are with you, that is, 40 
pines of two reeds length for ladders, 20 pines for short ladders (kammu), 2 
pines for "leaners" (hu-mu-da~ia), and provide silver for buying travel provi 
sions for the haulers [of the equipment]; those pieces of wood must arrive 
tomorrow. Do not neglect this letter of mine! Further: send a blade of one 
pound [of bronze] for the battering ram! The assault [on the city of Mishlan has 
been] on hold for nine days [because of this lack of siege equipment]. (L 205-0 1 

Archers were also used during sieges, but again apparently in rather small 
numbers. A small plaque from Mari shows an archer, behind another man holdin 
a large shield, shooting upward, apparently at enemies on a wall during a siegi 
(Figure 5c, p. 218). 13 One letter from the commander of a besieging arm 
requested more ammunition: 

Have made 50 bronze arrowheads of 5 shekels weight (40 grams) each, 5 
arrowheads of 3 shekels weight each, 100 arrowheads of 2 shekels weigh' 
each, and 200 arrowheads of 1 shekel weight each. Make it a priority, so thai 
it is finished quickly. It looks as if the siege of Andarik may be prolonged, an. I 
that is why I am writing to you. (ARM 18.5; MK 63) 

The total number of arrows requested was only 400, enough to arm only twenl 
archers with twenty arrows each. The urgency of the letter seems to imply that th< 
commander felt that these 400 arrows were important, possibly reflecting d 
overall small levels of archery used in Middle Bronze Mesopotamia. Thirty men 
with javelins are also described as harassing the city walls (T 497). 

Defensipe operations 

One standard response of a besieged city was to make sorties to disrupt tli. 
attackers (T 400). An active defense could include many sorties. One defending 
commander had "1000 good troops" in his garrison, allowing him to "constant!' 
keep coming out [of the city] to do battle" with ihr b« m< run- .iimv (1 34(0 \ 



■II -timed sortie could break a siege: "Two hundred troops and [commander] 
viggar-Abum went out from Kurda, and he defeated 500 Eshnunakean troops. He 
rove them from their [fortified] camp" (T 417). 

\ series of contemporary dispatches to king Zimri-Lim of Mari from his city 

u inlander named Zimri-Addu give a vivid description of the course of the siege 

I hritum by the Elamites in 1764 (L 103-5). The city was defended by both 

1 ii lote and Babylonian allied soldiers (L 459). The Elamites had surrounded the 

built a fortified camp, and constructed a ramp that was nearing the walls of 

city. In response Zimri-Addu undertook active defensive tactics. 

To my lord [king Zimri-Lim] speak! Your servant Zimri-Addu says: "The 
troops of my lord [in the city of Hiritum] are well. Some time ago I wrote my 
lord that [we set] fire to the tower [standing on] the lower fringe [of the Ela- 
mite siege ramp], and that the enemy [are seeking materials] for obtaining 
.mother tower. Now, that method [was successful in destroying] one tower, 
| but one tower] remained standing. And the work within the city against 
the tower of the enemy and his earthworks [continues]; a counter-ramp 14 that 
| we defenders] made was two ropes wide, earthworks for two ropes. And the 
1 1 Babylonian] servants of [the allied king] Hammurabi were talking as 
lollows. They said: 'We will make these earthworks higher toward our [. ... .] 
< ounter-ramp, and do battle from their top [against the enemy attack from 
i heir siege ramp]. The enemy will not be able to do anything to this city!' " 
(L 457-8) 

defenders seem to have been building a counter-ramp inside the city, with 

1 1 1 lent walls and earthworks allowing them to make the overall height of their 

M higher, forcing the enemy to increase the height of their siege ramp. 

/nnri-Addu continued the narrative in a subsequent dispatch written on the 

eve of the battle he is describing. Some unfortunate lacunae leave part of the 


lb my lord [king Zimri-Lim] speak! Your servant Zimri-Addu says: "The 
tioops of my lord [in the city of Hiritum] are well. The day I sent this tablet to 
my lord, the troops of my lord and [the allied] Babylonian troops were posi- 
tioned against the enemy in front of the [enemy siege] tower and the earth- 
works [of the enemy]; [our soldiers] fought and drove [the enemy] from, his 
[siege ramp] earthworks.. . . In the morning [the enemy] returned ... to the 
top of his earthworks [and] was coming out toward the [gate]. One of the 

li'.uHTs' | siege gangplank] and [. . . the siege tower?] gave way [and collapsed]. 

\iul I heard the following: 'There is no [siege] tower left to [the enemy], and 

he | is waiting for more materials] to obtain a [new] tower.' This I heard. The day 

when the battle was fought, Dagan-Mushteshir distinguished himself very much. 

| fire [was ht| and was kepi burning in front of the |enemy siege] tower. 

\nd of the troops of m\ Imd, m.m\ tumps distinguished themselves." (L 459) 



In the aftermath of their failure to break into Hiritum and the loss of their siege 
towers, the Elamite army withdrew (L 460), as Zimri-Addu describes in his next 

The troops [of Mari] are staying in the camp of Hiritum. The Babyloniai i 
troops took down the [temporary fortifications of] the city of Hiritum 
[including] the counter-ramp that they had built. They are spreading the 
earthworks [of the siege ramp] that the enemy had heaped up.. . . Now the 
enemy has crossed to Kakkulatum. He has regrouped.. . . The enemy has 
released the work detail [which had been conscripted to build the earthworks 
and siege ramp] to [return] to his land. (L 459) 

Another siege for which we have some detailed narratives is the siege of 
Razama by the Elamites (L 65—9). It began when Atamrum, king of Allahad and 
ally of the Elamites, with an army of 700 Elamites and 600 Eshnunakeans (L 496) 
made an attack on the city. Zimri-Lim of Mari was overlord of the city, but he 
was engaged in the north, and needed time to return to Mari, refurbish his army 
and relieve Razama (L 496). The city was thus required to hold out on its own foi 
nearly a month. The king of Razama, Sharraya, a loyal vassal of Zimri 
Lim, strongly resisted the siege. As Atamrum made siege ramps against the walls 
and prepared rams and siege towers for the final assault, Sharraya led sorties to 
disrupt the besiegers' efforts, specifically targeting the craftsmen making siege* 

The city of Razama is under siege, and [its commander] Sharraya is staying 
inside his city [to defend it]. He put up a fight. He went out and felled 500 
troops from among the [enemy] troops. [He also killed] two leatherworkeis 
and battering-ram makers [in the sortie] . (E 489) 

The ramp had progressed well, and a siege tower and ladders were ready for their 
final placement when Sharraya 's soldiers made another impressive sortie. 

Sharraya placed lumps of pitch opposite a tower and then lit a fire under the 
lumps of pitch, and the tower collapsed. And the fire consumed the "leaners" 
[siege tower gangplanks].. . . [Thereafter] Atamrum wrote to Sharraya [offer 
ing to withdraw on terms, saying]: "Give me tribute! And release to me the 
troops that you [captured in battle] and brought inside [the city]!" But he did 
not give him tribute.. . . And the city is strong. I am afraid Atamrum and lit 
troops will quit [the siege] before the arrival of my lord [with reinforcement ,| 
(L 300) 

At this point the attacking commander Atamrum considered negotiating, and 
wrote to his Elamite overlord, explaining: "I put a chokchold on the cit\ 
[of Razama]. Write to me if you want me to quit, and I shall in five the tribute < 

> \ » 


the city and quit. Otherwise [I shall take down] the fortifications of the city" 

I 495-6). The townspeople seemed willing to accept an offer and pay tribute, but 
by this time the situation had changed; Atamrum 's confidence had been restored 

I I id he broke off negotiations. 

They [the attackers] took a break for ten days, and then the elders [of the 
city] came out to Atamrum and told him the following. They said: "We are 
for making peace. The [besieging] troops must withdraw five kilometers from 
his camp, and I shall supply silver [as tribute]." And he [Atamrum] answered 
them as follows. He said: "You really have decided the following: 'We shall 
deceive him with words. Let him withdraw from his camp, and we shall 
[thereby] put a stop to the exertions [of the siege].. . .' If you are for making 
peace, why does Sharraya [the king of Razama] not come out to me 
[personally to negotiate]? Go, put up a fight, strengthen your city [for the 
coming attack]!" And the townspeople answer him as follows: "The city is 
Zimri-Lim's, and his regular army went behind him [to Aleppo]. Stay [and 
fight] until the lord of the city [Zimri-Lim] comes to [attack] you!" 
[Thus king Sharraya] made his decision, strengthened the city, and started 
coming out regularly [in sorties], and he was beating the Eshnunakean 
troops. And he [Atamrum] was heaping up earthworks going toward the city. 
(L 496) 

\ the siege ramp advanced toward the city wall, an urgent message was sent to 
iiuri-Lim requesting immediate assistance. 

Atamrum is besieging Razama. [His siege ramp] is astride the lower city 
| wall]. The troops of the city are doing battle all the time. If the city of 
Razama does not stop him, the whole land of Idamaras might change sides to 
him, judging by what I keep hearing from those [local citizens] around me. 
The eyes of Yamutbal and its entire land are fixed entirely on [what] my lord 
| Zimri-Lim will do to respond to this siege]. (L 454) 

' hale waiting for the relief army from Zimri-Lim, Sharraya redoubled his efforts 
II resistance with a secret assault on the attackers. 

I he front of the earthworks [of Atamrum s army] reached the parapet of the 
wall of the lower town, and the townspeople . . . made two tunnels [through 
I lie wall], right and left toward the front of the [enemy's approaching] earth- 
works. At night they [the troops of Razama] entered [the tunnels] at the front 
of the [enemy] earthworks, and in the early morning the troops of the city 
I .une out [in a surprise attack] and beat half of the troops [of Atamrum]. They 
Blade them drop their bronze spears and their shields [in flight] and brought 
[the discarded weapons | inside the city [as booty]. The townspeople keep 
invoking the name of m\ lord |/.iinri I im in vielory|. (I 496) 

> \ \ 



At this point Atamrum was reduced to attempting a rather feeble stratagem of 
his own. 

He supplied bronze javelins to thirty imposters [who pretended to be soldiers 
from Mari], and they hassled the city, saying: "Why do you keep invoking the 
name of [king] Zimri-Lim? Do not his troops besiege you right now?" And 
the townspeople answered them as follows: "You [Atamrum] equipped 
impostors and let them approach [the city wall]. Yes, in five days, the troops 
who are with Zimri-Lim will arrive for you. You will see." (L 497) 

The morale of the besiegers continued to deteriorate as that of the besieged 
improved with the news of the immanent approach of Zimri-Lim s relief army. 

The alarm of the coming of [the relief army] of my lord [king Zimri-Lim] has 
been sounded for the [besieging] troops [of Atamrum], and in the course ol 

the night the troops in camp are being woken up twice Those from inside 

the city will come out and they will kill many [enemy] troops! And those 
troops in that [enemy] camp are sleepless. They keep being apprehensive* 
about [the arrival of the army of] my lord. My lord must do what is necessan 
to come here and save the city. (L 497) 

The end of the siege is not recorded, but it appears that Zimri-Lim's army did 
arrive and save the city. These examples show that an active defense - with 
counter-ramp, sorties and fire, and hope for a relief army - could defeat a detei 
mined besieging army. 

Climax of the siege 

On the other hand, when an enemy siege was nearing success the morale of (Ik 
defenders played an increasingly important role. In some situations, the soldi ci 
began to panic and even mutiny. Sleeplessness and exhaustion contributed to 
deteriorating morale (L 347, 400, 466). At the siege of Shehna, the city coin 
mander "said to the herald, 'Get the troops up on the wall [to defend against th 
coming assault]!' [One of the officers] Ushtashni-El rose and said, 'My troopei 
will not go up on the wall.' The herald said, 'My commander sent me.' He [Ush 
tashni-El] acted maliciously and shoved the herald" (L 302). On the other hand 
many commanders and soldiers were willing to fight to the death for their km 
one defender of a besieged garrison proclaimed: "I will not open the city to am 
body. If a rescue detachment of my lord arrives, I will have lived. Otherwise I will 
have been killed [in the fall of the city]" (L 304). 

As the situation became more desperate, cities under siege usually requested 
relief army to march to their rescue (L 298, 299). "A rescue detachment urn 
arrive like one man on the day we hear the alarm of |the enemy| < oming nut |i 
attack our city]" (L 239). Sometimes reinforcements arrived |usi in the nu k 

me to save a city: "Had the troops of my lord been one day late, the city of Karan 

Blight have long since been seized [by the enemy]" (L 352). City commanders 

omplained when they didn't get the reinforcements they thought they needed; 

king, of course, wanted them to make do with the men they had: ''One time, 

times, and three times I made my request before Zimri-Lim, and still he did 

KM give anything to me" (L 262). Another commander echoed the same concern: 

Use city was left to itself. Now, my lord must dispatch troops, and they must take 

'in ml of [the city of] Nahur. That city must; not slip from the hand of my lord!" 

i simple reply — "There are no troops" (L 311) — has been echoed throughout 

1 1 try 

I he exasperation of the defending city commander is reflected in his refusal to 
responsibility for defeat if he is not given sufficient resources: 

i le [the king] disregards our word! We wrote to our lord once, twice, about 
troops entering Mishlan, and our lord [responded], "Whom do you fear that 
you keep writing me for troops?" ... If our lord does not dispatch us the 
troops, he cannot blame us [if we are defeated] in the future. We guard the 
wall and the city gates. We are afraid about [enemy devastation of] the flanks 
of the cultivated zone [around our city] . If there were one thousand or two 
thousand troops staying with us, one-half we would leave on the wall [to 
protect the city] and one-half we would send out on rescue missions [against 
the enemy pillaging the countryside]. (L 241) 

As a siege progressed, starvation for the garrison and citizens became a real 

ssibility (L 465). One commander wrote asking for assistance against a besieging 

\, claiming: "There is no grain in the city. My lord must do what is necessary 

hung grain to the city" (L 311, 304, 309; ARM 2.50). With a deteriorating 

nation the loyalty of some besieged towns could be dubious as a growing por- 

ii of the population came to believe that a negotiated surrender was preferable 

ruslavement and the destruction of their town. The king of Mari had 100 sol- 

■■.II i isoning the city of Qatara (L 404) that was besieged by an enemy general, 

kkutanum, who managed to instigate a revolt of the citizens: 

He | Kukkutanuni] caused the opinion of the commoners to turn against 
||.... And the commoners turned to the side of Kukkutanuni. They 
started seizing Qattara. If it had not been for the troops of my lord [from 
Mari, who were garrisoning the town], they [the rebel citizens] would have 
i eti Qattara. (L 354) 

\ hen ,i besieging army took the lower city, they faced the reality of an entirely 
siege to conquer the citadel. One besieging army "took shelter in [the cap- 

.1 lowei ( ity ol] Kiyatan. I le fixed up the lower city for use as his camp.. . . The 

id< I <>( the ( ity is strong. The townspeople entered it and are holding the cita- 

\nd 1 1 In- enemy] is ou njn ine the lowei ( it v I lis elite troops are in his camp" 




(L 362). When the lower city fell, it was plundered: "the soldiers looted the lower 
part of that city, but the citadel is untouched" (L 368). Often, however, when the 
lower city fell the citizens decided to take the last chance to surrender the citadel 
on terms (L 365). 

Thus the entire range of siege techniques of the ancient Near East - siege 
towers, battering rams, undermining, ramps, protective shelters, siege shields, and 
ladders - were all in place by at least the eighteenth century, and probably several 
centuries earlier. Although there were many subsequent important technical 
improvements, the basic elements of siegecraft had all been developed by the 
Middle Bronze Age. The only siege devices unattested in the Bronze Age Near 
East are the large, projectile throwing devices which developed in three phases: basic 
torsion devises beginning in the fourth century BCE; counterweight trebuchets in 
the twelfth century CE, and gunpowder in the late fourteenth century CE. 
Despite these significant advances, the essence of siegecraft was an invention of the 
Bronze Age. 



Syria and Lebanon 

Hie two core zones of civilization in the ancient Near East, Mesopotamia and Egypt, 

• no surrounded by peripheral regions which had their own cultures, but which 

■ ere tied in various cultural, political, and economic ways to the great agricultural 

ivct valleys. One of the most important of these, with the closest cultural and 

olitical ties to Mesopotamia, was Syria, 1 which, for the purposes of this study, 

ill be defined as the modern countries of Syria and Lebanon,, The geography and 

>>logy of this region is quite complex, ranging from narrow coastal plains to high 

rested mountains, rain-fed agricultural highland valleys, the upper Euphrates 

fur basin, steppe, desert, and oases, all interlocking in complex patterns creating a 

1 1 nber of separate micro-environments with distinctly different agricultural or 

i oral potential (M = EDS 35). 

Practically speaking, this area is geographically divided into four zones: 

(he coastal plains, or Phoenician zone; 

the inland valleys; 

the middle Euphrates basin; and 

i he steppe and desert fringe to the south and east. 

Each of these zones created different styles of human social organization. Each 

I the first three zones was home to city-states. The Phoenician coastal zone was 

ii ionally home to the world's first great maritime civilization, best documented 

i he Early and Middle Bronze ages at Byblos and Ugarit. The fourth zone, the 

ilcppc and desert, was generally inhabited by nomadic and semi-nomadic pastor- 

li\ts, who often played an important military role in Syrian and Mesopotamian 

it) states, either as raiders or as allies of sedentary armies. 

I he archaeological periodization of Syria (Table 9.1) 2 is not as precisely defined 
I thai of Egypt or Mesopotamia. In broad terms Syrian archaeological periods 
irallel those of Canaan, but there are important distinctions, and different scho- 
Luh interpreters arrange things differently. 

I he earliest written texts from Syria appear at Ebla around 2500. Before that 
are dependent for our knowledge of Syrian military history solely upon 
lurolutw oi incidental references to Syria in Mesopotamian sources. The mili- 
Ur\ Inst or v ol Syria in the Neohthn pet lot 1 has been discussed in Chapter Cue. 



Table 9.1 Simplified archaeological chronology of Syria 




Alternate names 




Early "Pre-Pottery" 



Pre-Pottery Neolithic A 
Pre-Pottery Neolithic 15 



Early Pottery 

Late Neolithic 









Early Bronze 


Middle Bronze 

Middle Bronze I 


Old Syrian 

Middle Bronze II 



Late Bronze 


Middle Syrian Period 

Chalcolithic {440G-3000} 3 

The Chalcolithic period in Syria is characterized by the rise and spread of copper 
working for ornamentation, statues, tools, and weapons. City fortifications also 
make their first appearance in Syria during the Chalcolithic. Culturally, another 
significant development is the closer cultural and economic integration of Syria 
with southern Mesopotamia, with Syria increasingly sharing forms of pottery, 
cylinder seals, architecture, writing, and cultural institutions; this phenomenon is 
sometimes called the "Uruk expansion" (AS 181-4, 190-7; HE1 14-18), which 
naturally included an exchange of military technologies and practices - most 
apparent in fortifications and weapons. 

While all archaeologists agree that there are significant parallels in materia] 
culture between Syria and Mesopotamia during this "Uruk expansion", they dis 
agree as to the extent to which this integration came about by actual migration and 
colonization of eastern and central Syria by people from southern Mesopotamia as 
opposed to the influence of merchant colonies or indirect influence. 4 Tin 
Sumerian perspective of this phenomenon has been discussed in Chapter Three. 
Here we will look at the issue from the perspective of the Syrians. 

The Sumerians seem to have tried to create a chain of towns and markets to 
connect them with areas containing resources crucial to tin- new forms of urban 
social organization that were developing in Mesopotamia mm h .is metal, buildiin- 

i rc 


1 1 nber, stone, and precious stones such as lapis lazuli. In Syria, the major trade 

DUte passed up the middle Euphrates, thence branching into western Syria, the 

Mediterranean and Anatolia. A major Sumerian colony in Syria was Habuba 

dura (Tell Qannas, Jebel Aruda) {c. 3500—3200}, which was protected by three- 

neter-thick mud-brick walls with numerous projecting square towers and at least 

two fortified gates. The city had strong cultural links with southern Mesopotamia, 

Mill is frequently described as a Sumerian colony (AS 190—7; EDS 81-6; EA 

' 146—8; DANE 135—6). Many surrounding sites also exhibit, to a greater or lesser 

legree, close parallels in their material culture to the Sumerian city-states over 

jeveral centuries (AS 195-7). Smaller Sumerian outposts, such as the fortress at 

nshnaqa, have also been discovered (AS 200-1). The fact that the Sumerian 

-lonies in Syria have some of the first major fortifications known in Syria points 

' i i wo important military facts. First, the colonies were not entirely peaceful and 

onomic in nature, but felt sufficiently threatened by surrounding non-Sumerian 

Oples that they needed to fortify their cities. Second, the process of 

JUmerian colonization necessarily included a transfer of military technology and 

i hniques from the Sumerians to the Syrians. 

The occupation of Habuba lasted less than 200 years, after which it was aban- 

ued. The precise reason for the disappearance of Habuba and related sites is 

inknown. The city was not destroyed, but there could certainly have been a sig- 

lificant military threat contributing to the decision of the Sumerian colonists to 

t '.melon the city. Phocnican city-states were also involved in the rising militarism 

-I the late fourth millennium; city walls have been found at Dakermann in Leba- 

K>n (MW 1:187). Weapon burials in elite graves at Byblos indicate the beginning 

rf the rise of a military elite (MW 1:187). 

I he precise political and military relationship between the northern Mesopo- 
iniian "colonies" and the Sumerian city-states of the south is unclear. Given the 
ii rent evidence, it is probably premature to speak of an empire, where southern 
UK's had direct control over their colonies in the north. Rather, it is more 
ipropriate to think of the relationship between Greek city-states and their colo- 
m the sixth century BC, where close cultural, economic, political, and mili- 
'ii v lies existed, but without direct control by the mother city (AS 204—5). Some 
' . like Habuba Kabira, seem to have been entirely new foundations created by 
Sumerian colonists. Others, like Tell Brak, show a mixture of indigenous Syrian 
i iirrial culture with significant Sumerian influences (AS 185-90; EDS 86-9; DANE 
9). Such sites may represent Sumerian elites ruling local peoples, or local Syr- 
ian elites allying themselves with the Sumerians and adopting Sumerian culture. 
What is clear, however, is that the period of the spread of the "Uruk world 
t< m" also witnessed the spread of militarism; military threat increased during 
mid to-late fourth millennium, leading to the beginning of fortification in 
mi derived from models originating earlier in Mesopotamia. Unfortunately, 
1 .it k ol texts from this period prevent us from understanding any of the details of 
w it l.i i e dm in; 1 , i lie late I Jruk .\\\i\ but H is presumed that competition for resources 
1 1 id i ontiol ol trade routes was an nupoi taut factoi 




Whatever the nature of the military component of the "Umk expansion" , 
came to a relatively abrupt halt around 3000. Some of the Uruk sites such' , 
Habuba Kabira, were simply abandoned with few signs of military conflict o 
destruction. Other Sumerian sites, however, such as Jebel Aruda and Sheikh Has 
san, do have destruction layers probably caused by war (AS 208). Still other site- 
continued in use, but without the distinctive Uruk-style pottery and artifacts It , 
assumed that the Sumerian "colonists" either were driven from these sites oi 
withdrew on their own accord under some type of pressure. Many Sumerian 
colonists probably merged with the local Syrian population, losing their distinctive 
identity, at least in terms of material culture identifiable to archaeologists We are 
uncertain as to the causes of the collapse of the "Uruk expansion"; there wen 
Probably a number of contributing factors, and a military component should noi 
be excluded. 

The Early Bronze Age in Syria {3000-2100} 5 

After the decline of the initial impulse of city building m Syria during the UruJ 
expansion {3400-3000}, Syria experienced a decrease m the scale and complexity 
of urbanization for several centuries {3000-2600}. Although small towns and vil 
lages remained widespread in Syria, there is little evidence of large-scale urban, 
zation until the twenty-sixth century (AS 233-5, 268-7). Thereafter a number oi 
sites give evidence of rapid expansion in size and population. The largest of thest 
reached up to 100 hectares in size, with populations possibly approaching 30 000 
probably representing the maximum potential population of an ancient Syrian cih 
given the ecologual, agricultural, technological and transportation limitations ol 
the age. For the military historian, two developments of the Early Bronze Age an 
most important: increased use of copper and later bronze for weapons - tin-bronz, 
becoming common only during the late third millennium; and the nearly uni 
versal spread of fortifications for cities, after the halting beginnings during the 
Uruk expansion m the late Chalcolithic (AS 250-1, 268-9). Martial themes also 
begin to appear in royal art. This triple combination of weapons, fortification and 
martial art is a sure sign of the crossing of the warfare threshold. 

As with southern Mesopotamia and Egypt, the most striking military feature . ,1 
Early Bronze Age Syria is the widespread appearance of massive mud-brick c,u 
fortifications at a number of sites, probably based on earlier southern Mesopot, 
mian models and technologies. Major fortified cities of Early Bronze Age Syr, , 
include: . Ebla, Man, Qatna (Tel Mishnfe), Hama (ancient Amad), Aleppo (ancient 
Yamkhad), Ugarit (Ras Shamra), and Damascus. 6 Each seems to have been the 
center of a major independent city-state (AS 244-6). In north-eastern Syria in , 
region known as the "Khabur triangle" encompassing the tributaries of the Kha 
bur River, there were three main strongly fortified city-states by the middle of th. 
third millennium (AS 259-62): Nagar (Tell Brak; EA 1:355 6) Urkesh (Tell 
Mozan; EA 4:60-3) and Shekhna (Tell Leilan; EA 3: U I 7). «•.„ I, ,,, whi( |, 
trolled surrounding towns and villages. Nag.u seems n, I,,,, |,„ ,, ,|„. ( | ()lllm ml 


ule in the region. The surviving fortifications of Shekhna (Leilan) are parti- 
rly impressive, with two concentric brick walls, the largest ten meters wide 
hlieen meters high, with a circumference of 3.5 kilometers (AS 262; EDS 

North-east Syria also contained a unique form of fortification consisting of 

< ircular mud-brick walls and ditches known as kranzhugel ("wreath- 

i uls") by archaeologists; the outer city walls were often supplemented by inner 

''■ I fortifications around the temple and palace complexes on the acropolis 


Ebla (Tell Mardikh) {c. 2550-2300} 1 

two major city-states of Early Bronze Age Syria were Ebla and Mari, both of 
1 1 were culturally integrated in many ways with Sumerian civilization in 
I hern Mesopotamia. The remarkable discovery of a huge archive of 17,000 clay 
ts at Ebla in 1974—76 has made it the best-documented city in Early Bronze 
i with the earliest extensive written corpus in any Semitic language (AS 239). 
m innately for the military historian, the vast majority of the texts at Ebla were 
nttcn by its extensive and highly centralized economic and administrative 
me racy. None the less, enough military information can be extracted to pro- 
US with an important glimpse into military affairs in the twenty- fourth cen- 
Before the discovery of the Ebla archive, "no inscriptions prior to the second 
irter of the second millennium were found in any of the north Syrian archae- 
'■'u .il sites" (HE1 3; AS 235); until this discovery it had been presumed that 
riting was unknown in Early Bronze Age Syria. This provides an important 
ionary tale: our understanding of ancient Near Eastern military history is 
ways tentative and subject to sometimes radical reorientation by new discoveries. 
I.bla was first settled around 3500. In the following centuries it grew in size, 
coming the predominant town in the region, supported by numerous sur- 
inding satellite agricultural villages. Ebla's significance was in part linked to its 
as an entrepot of growing international trade, probably beginning with 
m rcased demand for wool in Sumer. At its height, Ebla reached a size of 60 
i tares, and a population of from 10,000 to 20,000. Archaeological and textual 
• vidence shows Ebla as a nexus of trade eastward with Mesopotamia and south- 
tward with Bybios, and hence indirectly with Egypt, 

Mi hough for the most part details are not known, a tentative list of rulers 

iumerian: en; Akkadian malikum) of Ebla up until the destruction of the city-state 

i Sargon (?) in c. 2300 8 can be reconstructed from the texts (HE1 19-26; SHP 

CANE 2:1222). These, include, with very rough chronological estimates 

i urning .i 20 year generation: 

Rnmanu (c. 2740} |< 11 >()J 
Da |. . .|{< !7(K)| 

i i lni |< 2(»sii| 



Dane'um {c. 2660} 
Ibbini-Lim {c. 2640} 
Ishrut-Damu {c. 2620} 
Isidu {c. 2600} 
Isrut-Halam {c. 2580} 
Iksud {c. 2560} 
Talda-Lim {c. 2540} 
Abur-Lim {c. 2520} 
Agur-Lim {c. 2500} 
Ibbi-Damu {c.2480} 
Baga-Damu {c.2460} 
Enar-Damu {c. 2440} 
Ishar-Malik {c. 2420} 
Kum-Damu {c. 2400} 
Adub-Damu {c. 2380} 
Igrish-Halam {c. 2360} 
Irkab-Damu {c. 2340} 
Ish'ar-Damu {c. 2320} 

This list implies that the beginning of the dynasty coincided with the building of 
the first royal palace (G2) on the acropolis at about 2700, with the dynasty lasting 
until the destruction of that palace complex around 2300; it was through this 
destruction that the Ebla archive was inadvertently preserved. However, most of 
the Ebla tablets come from the period of the last three rulers on this list - roughly 
the late twenty -fourth century; the earlier rulers are little more than mere names. 
Based on a careful study of the political implications of economic and admin- 
istrative texts, Ebla should probably be seen as a hegemonic state, the major eco- 
nomic and military power in inland Syria during the Early Bronze Age (HE1 51- 
69). At its greatest extent the kingdom occupied an area roughly half the size of 
the modern state of Syria. Ebla ruled over two dozen or so large cities, and many 
other towns and villages. About half of the kingdom of Ebla was under the direct 
rule of the king, administered by governors (lugal); the other half of the cities were 
vassal states which retained their own kings (en), who provided tribute, supplies, 
military equipment, troop levees, and work crews to Ebla. 9 Smaller towns and 
villages were ruled by overseers (ugula) who were appointed by the king (HE1 34). 
The king also sent agents (mashkim), collectors (ur) and messengers (has) to oversee 
royal affairs and interests (HE1 51-2). Members of the extended royal family often 
served in major positions of power or as rulers of subsidiary cities, while daughters 
of the king were made high priestesses (datn-dingir, "wife of the god") in temples 
in different cities (HE1 53). Some of these client kings had their own sub-client 
rulers; the king of Burman, for example, was a vassal of Ebla, but was himself 
overlord of his own vassals in the towns of Shada and Arisum (1 IK I 33). Many of 
the smaller towns and villages were treated as property, which was tr.ided between 
kings, client-kings, vassals, governors, nobles, and trmplr hin.miues (HH1 V|, 



15—9). With variations in detail, this basic pattern of political organization would 
continue in Syria for the next thousand years. 

The royal administration included departments for the collection and distribu- 
tion of metals (e-am, "house of metal"), textiles (e-siki, "house of textiles"), and 
chariots and draft animals (e-gigir, "house of chariots") (HE1 53). Ebla could be 
tidied a tribute-state, whose power was based on wealth derived from tribute 
collected from vassals and allies. At the height of its power the king of Ebla 
icceived annually an average of 357 kg of silver, 10 kg of gold, and 490 kg of 
topper, with a royal flock totaling 670,000 sheep (CANE 2:1125—6). Vassal cities 
were also required to supply the army of Ebla with weapons, including spearheads, 

ii rows, and daggers. 

Supplies for soldiers were also part of the vassal tribute system, including 
1 1 o thing, animals, wine and food, and men for labor or combat (HE1 40-1, 45—6); 
the small town of Armi, for example, provided 120 soldiers, while the town of 

\hatum mobilized 180 (HE1 44). At full mobilization the army of Ebla was thus a 

omposite force of each of its vassal city-states; nomadic clients of the king of Ebla 
w ere also required to send troops and supplies. The Ebla texts also describe brisk 
nver traffic on the Euphrates, including wooden and reed boats (HE1 60-1); a 
number of different types of boats are described, including: boats (ma), large boats 

iiui-gat), and deep draft cargo boats (ma-gur) (HE1 60-2); these boats were pre- 
■ u m ably commandeered and used during military campaigns to provide logistical 

1 1 ui transportation support for armies marching up and down the Euphrates. 

Some city-states in the region were Eblaite allies, bound together by mutual 
interest and marriage. Diplomatically, Irkab-Damu {c. 2340} sealed an alliance 

irith the vassal city of Emar, through the marriage of his daughter to the king of 
I mar (SHP 28-9). Although the details are lacking, it is clear that there was 
ongoing intrigue and tension between Ebla and rival city states, creating frequently 
unstable and shifting patterns of alliances. Diplomatic intrigue focused on the 
ongoing struggle between the two main military powers of Syria in the middle 
Euphrates, Mari and Ebla, for hegemony over the city-states lying between them. 

I he ruler of a city-state called Adu was lured away by Mari, apparently under 

Ome duress, from its former alliance with Ebla: "the friendship [alliance] of Ebla is 
BO! good, better to establish good friendship with Mari" (SHP 29). Tactics in this 

truggle included marriage alliances and diplomatic intrigue, as well as outright 
1 1 two of the year-names in the Ebla texts mention defeat of the armies of 
Mari (SHP 29; HE1 43). 

The most important military texts describe a struggle between Ebla and its 

■ est rival, Mari, which lasted off and on for nearly a century. 10 Our informa- 

[on comes in the form of a rather laconic and formulaic combat report from the 

I hi. ute general Enna-Dagan to an unnamed king of Ebla, perhaps Irkab-Damu 

1 ' 10 j, describing a sequence of campaigns over the course of three genera- 

ii I lere is an example of the combat report formula: "Iblul-Il [king of Mari] 

itcd Shada, Addalini, and Arisum, | vassal] countries of Burman at Sugurum, 

.tin] raised a |butial| mound |o\u a pile of enemy corpses!'' (IIH1 29-30). 

I \ 


It appears that for three generations Mari had been incrementally encroaching 
up the Euphrates until it had reached the Eblaite vassal city-state of Emar at the 
great bend, forcing Ebla to pay tribute (HE1 38-9) totaling 1000 kg of silver and 
60 kg of gold over the course of perhaps forty years (CANE 2:1226). At that point 
Ebla dispatched an army under general Enna-Dagan, who launched a triumphant 
counterattack. The specifics are vague, but the overall picture is clear. Enna-Dagan 
■was victorious, retaking the cities on the middle Euphrates that had been captured 
by Mari. The scale of the conflict is reflected in reports of 3600 dead at a battle at 
Darashum and another 3200 dead at Badanu and Masanu - though it is not clear if 
these numbers included civilian and military casualties (HE1 43). Enna-Dagan 
then proceeded south-east down the Euphrates, defeating the armies of Mari and 
its allies several more times, culminating in the capture of Mari itself, after which 
general Enna-Dagan was established as the new king (en) of Mari; it is not certain 
if he had been a vassal of the king of Ebla, but he seems to have become essentially 
independent. Thereafter the boundary between Ebla was established at Halabit, 
with that important fortress in Ebla's hands (HE1 49-50). 

Early Bronze Age Mari (Tell Hariri) {2600-2300} 11 

The remarkable archaeological discovers at Ebla, and our consequent knowledge 
of that site, overshadow the achievements of Early Bronze Mari. However, mosi 
evidence points to Mari rather than Ebla as the dominant city-state on the middle 
Euphrates. It was nearly twice as large as Ebla (100-plus hectares versus 60 hec- 
tares), and contained from 20,000 to 30,000 people (AS 263). Its double circular 
mud-brick fortifications measured 1920 meters in diameter, with gates protected 
by large projecting towers (EA 3:414; AFC 135). As noted above, Mari also 
seemed to be militarily predominant over Ebla during much of the twenty-fourth 
century, until the great victories of the Eblaite general Enna-Dagan {c. 2340}. 

We are able to reconstruct a king-list for the Early Bronze Age Mari, which 
unfortunately is little more than names, with very rough dates for their rule. 12 

1. Ilshu {c. 2550-2520} 

2. Lamgi-Mari {c. 2520-2503} 

3. Ikun-Shamash {c. 2503-2473} 

4. Ikun Shamagan {c. 2473-2453} 

5. Ishqi-Mari {c. 2453-2423} 

6. Anubu {c. 2423-2416} 
Sa'umu {c. 2416-2400} 
Ishtup-Ishar {c. 2400} 
Iblul-Il {c. 2380} 

Nizi {c. 2360} 

Enna-Dagan (conqueror from Mari) {c. 2340} 

Ikun-Ishar {c. 2320} 

Hida'ar {c. 2300} 

'! I 


Maris predominance was brought to an end by the campaigns of general Enna- 
I >aga of Ebla, as we have seen, who defeated the armies of Mari and captured the 
ity, installing himself as king (HE1 26—51). Little is known of Enna-Dagan 's suc- 
I i\ssors, and by around 2300 the city was conquered by Sargon of Akkad, 

Terqa (EA 5:188-90; AS 267) 

Another powerful Early Bronze Age city-state on the middle Euphrates was Terqa 
I ell Ashara), with some of the most massive brick fortifications of the period — 
three concentric walls totaling twenty meters in thickness. The first of the three 
ills was built about 2900, and the next two at roughly hundred-year intervals. 
i he walls were maintained and repaired over the course of the next thousand 
/ears, indicating an early perception of increasing military threat throughout most 
■ I the Early Bronze. It seems likely that Terqa was politically dependant on Mari in 
ome way and served as a major bastion for the defense of that kingdom. 

Warriors of Early Bronze Syria 

\w analysis of archaeological and artistic evidence gives us a fair idea of the 
iimament of the Syrian warrior of the Early Bronze Age. It is important to 
mphasize that the term "Early Bronze" in reference to the weapons technology 
the third millennium is something of a misnomer. For example, although 
ronze arrowheads are known, most Early Bronze arrowheads continued to be 
Hide of flint (AS 272); in general, flint or obsidian weapons remained common. 
I \ en when metal weapons were used, throughout the first half of the Early Bronze 
V'.r most weapons were actually cast from arsenic-copper. True tin-bronze was 
l.ihvely rare because of the scarcity of tin sources in the Near East. Tin, along 
iih lapis lazuli, was imported over 3000 miles from Afghanistan; city-state 
ireaucracies tried carefully to control the importation and distribution of tin. 
( »nly in the later Early Bronze Age had tin supplies become large and reliable 
in mgh to allow tin-bronze to become the predominant metal for weapon mak- 
ing. The term "Early Bronze Age" refers to the first appearance of tin-bronze 
tpons, not to the period of their universal adoption. Thus, Early Bronze Age 
Hreapons industries were dependent on access to the scarce resource of tin; the 
ili with the best and most reliable access to tin could arm more soldiers more 
heavily with bronze weapons. 

Perhaps the earliest martial art from Syria was erected by an unknown Early 
Bronze king near Jebelet el-Beidha, showing a bearded king wearing a (sheep- 
vkin?) kilt and sash on his left shoulder, holding a mace in his right hand. One of 
H two followers holds an axe; the weapon of the other is lost (AS 273). This stele 
was erected on a prominent plateau as some sort of victory monument, pointing to 
the rise of royal martial ideology. Other details are uncertain. 

\ inajoi source for Syrian warrior armament is armed god figurines. 
I hroui'Jiout the levant .in.l Syria during l-.irly Bronze III {2300-2000} and the 

M . 


Middle Bronze Age {2000—1600}, a religious tradition developed centered on il 
offering of copper or bronze votive statuettes to temples. Hundreds of these su 
tuettes have been preserved. Many of them represent armed warrior gods, an< 
hence provide for us an invaluable record of the changing dress and armament 
Bronze Age Syrian and Canaanite warriors. 13 It must be emphasized that tin 
figures are intended to represent divinities, and hence their weapons tend to refit 
the weapons of the elite warriors rather than the common soldiers, but this 
generally true of all Bronze Age martial art. 

Several EB III {2300-2000} figurines were found at Tell el-Judeideh (SAF I 
These depict bearded nude warriors wearing an eight-inch wide leather b 
around the waist, armed with a short thrusting spear or javelin and a round-he, u I 
mace. They wear a torque around the neck, and have a conical helmet, eithci 
copper or leather (SAF §1-2). Since other contemporary art shows warriors :• 
erally wearing kilts, the lack of clothing on several of these figures in this ai 
subsequent periods may reflect religious concerns related to fertility, or an attempt 
to indicate if the votive figure is a god or goddess, rather than an actual tradition 
fighting in the nude, though that cannot be discounted (SAF 133-4), 

Another major collection of bronze figurines comes from the mountains <> 
Lebanon and dates to roughly the end of the Early Bronze Age {2100—1900} (SAI 
15). These depict the warrior-god wearing a knee-length kilt and an eight-im h 
wide leather belt at the waist; some have long braided ropes hanging from the 1 1 
or wear a torque or necklace. The figures have full beards and shoulder-leu; 
braided hair. Unfortunately the weapons for these figures were cast separately .in. 
are missing from most of the figures, but those remaining include a man-lenj 
broad-headed thrusting spear and a mace or club (SAF §3—9). The helmets woi 
by the earlier Early Bronze III figures from Tell el-Judeideh are not present. Tin 
two sources point to the mace and thrusting spear as the standard Early Bronze 1 1 1 
armament in Syria. 

Our understanding of the arms and armor of Syria during the Ebla age ( 
2500—2300} is greatly enhanced by fragments from military murals from the 
ces of the kings of Ebla (AFC 175-7) and Mari (AFC 157-60), which compl. 
ment related martial art from contemporary Mesopotamia in Early Dynastic III 
{2650-2300} from Girsu (AFC 190-1) and Ur (AFC 97-9), which was discus; 
on pp. 59—60. Fragments of a palace military mural from Ebla, sometimes known 
as the "Standard of Ebla", give us a good view of Syrian warriors of the twent\ 
fourth century (AFC 175—7). Most of the surviving fragments of the main 
murals from the palace at Ebla seem to be post-combat scenes related to prison ei 
The first shows a soldier from Ebla wearing a leather cape as armor, typical oi thi 
Early Dynastic period found on the Standard of Ur. This warrior also has a helmcl 
probably of leather, and carries a short javelin which he is thrusting into the neel 
of a prostrate captured enemy lying bound at his feet (AFC 176). The second 
shows a soldier in a leather (or sheepskin) kilt, which is cut into strips at the km > 
to facilitate movement; this soldier has no helmet. I le lus ,i pole on Ins shonhli i 
from which hangs something which looks like fain u . ,iini has h. • n mtei pieted as 



liner, a battle net, or a pouch to carry equipment or booty. The pole may in fact 
,n axe or a javelin - there are other scenes showing weapons carried on 
illlders from which other equipment or banners are hung. 14 In his right hand he 
fries two severed enemy heads, perhaps hoping to obtain a bounty from the king 
\\ < : 176). The third vignette shows a man dressed precisely like the warrior in 
second, but here he is grappling with a naked enemy prisoner (AFC 177). The 
,1 scene shows a man in the same type of kilt also grappling with an enemy. The 
I , .or has a large bronze dagger in his right hand, with a "distinctive crescent- 
| ed pommel and ridged blade", which he is thrusting into the eye of a fallen 
my The enemy lies on his back, holding his attacker by the knees with his 
hi hand, using his left hand trying to hold back the dagger (AFC 177). Other 
i nents from the mural show an archer and a bound prisoner being escorted by a 
Ik i (AS 241). A contemporary statue of a king of Ebla shows him holding the 
u al Sumerian Early Dynastic narrow-bladed axe (AFC 171). 
rhe martial art from Early Bronze Age Mari 15 shows very close parallels to that 
! bla and Ur, indicating there was essentially a single shared military system 
nding from Sumer up the middle Euphrates into eastern Syria - or alter- 
ively that they shared the same art style and craftsmen. Weapons depicted 
lude the narrow-headed axe (AS 264; AW 1:137-9), javelin (AFC 157), spear 
I ( ' 158; AW 1:138), and bow (AFC 158). Most of the soldiers wear leather (or 
I l) helmets, fastened by a strap under the chin (AFC 158); some have beret- 
C raps (AS 264; AW 1:139). One of the warriors carries aloft a tall pole topped 
, hull-emblem - presumably a regimental standard (AW 1:138). Most of the 
Jdiers wear knee or ankle-length kilts with fringed hems. Most also have a long, 
\ hie sash over their right shoulders, extending down to their knees in both front 
id hack; it is marked by two rows of evenly spaced circles (AFC 157-8; AW 
I MS); this sash seems to be unique to soldiers from Man from this period. It has 
pen interpreted as a leopard skin - though the circles seem far too evenly spaced - 
I itudded leather (AFC 157); it may simply be a colored fabric sash used at Man 
some type of heraldic uniform. Prisoners are shown with their arms tied to their 
waists and pinioned behind their backs at the elbows (AFC 157; AS 264; AW 
MS). The standard Early Bronze Sumerian-style war-cart - four solid wheels, 
,lt.,w n by equids, with a driver and warrior with multiple javelins - is found in the 
Mari murals (AFC 159-60; AW 1:139). A detailed discussion of the Sumerian 
U cart is found in Chapter Five, but here it should be noted that war-cart 
i hnology had spread to the middle Euphrates by at least the twenty-fourth 


Militarily the most interesting scene at Mari is a shell plaque depicting two 

in typical Man military dress and a sprawling dead enemy (Figure 5c, p. 219). 

irsl soldier holds a long thrusting spear underhand in his left hand. His right 

I upports a huge reed shield, with the reeds bound in leather in four evenly 

s V mvi\ places. The shield appears to be about two meters tall, and is strongly 

.itched backward in its uppei portion; it seems too big and bulky to be maneuvered 

,, lM K m battle liehnul iln- shu-ld beam is au archer, shooting an arrow upward 



over the top of the curved shield. It is difficult to resist the interpretation i 
scene represents a siege, in which one warrior holds a large shield for thi 
tion of the archer. The fact that the shield is curved backward indicates I 
of missiles from above - this could occur either from missiles shot from 
from high trajectory arrows or sling stones shot from the ground. Thi 
shooting his arrow upward indicates a probable target on a wall. The bull 
the shield would make it unwieldy in mobile combat, but it is an ideal 1 1 
tification for static siege combat. In broad terms this shield is similar to th 
body-shields of Sumerian warriors discussed in pages 55—9; the same type of sit 
remained in use in Mesopotamia until Assyrian times {930-612} (AW 2 
418-19, 424, 435). 

Archaeologically, weapon finds from tombs confirm the standard Early I 
Age panoply found in Syria, including spears, javelins, maces, axes, arrow I 
and daggers (MW; AS 270-1). The most important sites of weapon finds ii 
Qatna (south of modern Hama), where over 100 copper/bronze weapon 
discovered in tombs (MW; EA 4:35-6; AS 245); Til-Barsib (Tell Ahmar), whei i 
three dozen weapons were found in local tombs (MW; EA 5:209—10; A 
and the tombs at Jerablus Tahtani, near Carchemish (MW; EA 1:423—4; AS 
These weapons are mainly of arsenic-copper, with tin-bronze appearing I 
end of the Early Bronze Age. Surviving weapons include narrow-bladed axes 
spearheads, javelin heads, arrowheads, thin daggers, and broad, leaf-shaped dagt 1 

In summary, complementary evidence from written, artistic, and archaeoli 
sources give us a fairly good picture of Syrian warriors of the Early Bronze p. 
There were two overlapping military traditions in Syria. The first could be 
the indigenous Syrian system, with warriors in kilts and broad leather belts an 
with a combination of spear, javelin, mace, axe, and bronze dagger, probablx 
plemented by the bow. The second Syrian military system, found at Mari I 
and probably other major cities on the middle Euphrates, could probably be 
sidered an extension or variation on the contemporary Sumerian military syst 
The basic dress is a leather (or sheepskin?) kilt extending from the waist n< 
knees. The leather is cut into strips for about six inches above the knees to I > 
itate movement. This basic gear is often supplemented by heavy infantry eijiiij 
ment consisting of a long leather cape or cloak extending from the shoukln 
below the knees, and a leather or metal helmet. The weapons shown include I 
standard Early Bronze bow javelin, spear, large dagger, and axe. Other than h 
mets, no metal armor has been found from the Early Bronze Age; it is likely tl 
almost all armor depicted in the martial art was leather. Metal helmets have l> 
found in the Royal Tombs of Ur, indicating that they were used at least by the 
warrior elites. 18 

Akkadian Empire in Syria {c. 2300-2200} 19 

The long-lasting, bi-polar military struggle between Ebla and Mari on the inn Ml 
Euphrates was overthrown by the intervention of the Akkadians around 23< M). I'h 



! truction layers at many Early Bronze sites in Syria are generally 
to the Akkadian conquest (AS 277-82). The major campaigns of the 
est Akkadian warlords Sargon {2334-2279} and Naram-Sin {2255- 
lu-on discussed in Chapter Three. Among the claimed conquests of 
Mai i, Yarmuti, and Ebla, then westward to the Mediterranean (R 2:12, 
We hive no precise chronology for Sargon's reign, but this campaign 
. m ( urred rather late in his reign after he had firmly secured Mesopo- 
rhaps around 2300. His army, presumably supported by a river fleet, 
ip the Euphrates to the city-state Tuttal, which submitted. There Sargon 
| the oracle of the god Dagon, "who gave him, from that time on, the 
,,.,11 v [of Syria, including the city-states ol] Mari, Yarmuti, and Ebla, as 
I orest of Cedars [Lebanon] and the [Taurus] Mountain of Silver" (CI/ 
- nh the godDagon's approval, Sargon continued his march north-west- 
king Man, and reaching the Mediterranean Sea. Sargon's motive for his 
i clear; he was seeking direct access to the "Forest of Cedars and the 
.m i of Silver" - in other words, he was searching for building timber and 
OCh of which were in short supply in Mesopotamia itself. Archaeology 
thai Man was destroyed about this time, a destruction generally attrib- 
iargon. Many other sites in Syria show destruction layers datable to this 
\S 278). Some were rebuilt and continued as urban centers under Akka- 
,!, . others were never reinhabited, initiating the urban decline in Syria 
,uld reach crisis proportions from 2200 to 2000 (AS 281-7). 
interpretation of the archaeological evidence for direct Akkadian dom- 
„ oi Syria is somewhat controversial (AS 278-9). Maximalists argue for a 
| oi direct Akkadian control of Syria in the twenty-second century, inter- 
d with rebellions and a period of independence between Sargon and Nararn- 
quiring a strong campaign to reassert Akkadian authority by Naram-Sin (R 
0. They point to the Akkadian palaces of Naram-Sin at Nagar (Tell Brak) 
Shekhna (Tell Leilan) as exemplars of Akkadian direct rule (EA 3:343-4; AS 
HI). Minimalists see the claims of the Akkadian warlords as exaggerated and 
• Jnnnmon limited. Some type of hegemony must have been exercised by the 
uluns; after his conquests Naram-sm was able to install two of his daughters as 
at Mari, and to build a palace with bricks stamped with his name; an 
ription of Runush was also found at Man (Cl/2:331-2). In either case, 
Lkadian intervention m Syria created a major power shift in the old political 
J t -t of Hariy Bronze Syrian city-states. Ebla was also destroyed by the Akkadians; 
i I, it was quickly rebuilt and remained an important economic center in 
, queii! centuries as attested by references to it in trading texts - it never 
. ,,„ H T ,amcd its earlier role of regional military predominance. 


Crisis at the end of the Early Bronze Age {2200-2000} 

il( |mmi , ( | ul . ulmstu oi tin- end ol the b.arlv liron'/e Age is a region-wide 
, ted in wulrsnie.ul n uU'.ual drt ,i\, dynast n collapse, urban disintegration, 

' l'i 


and tribal migration. Similar patterns of crisis are found in Egypt, Canaan, Syria, 
Cyprus, Anatolia, the Aegean, Mesopotamia, and Iran during this same period. 
Since similar patterns of decline have been discovered throughout the Near East, 
some scholars have searched for region- wide factors contributing to this crisis. 
One theory posits that increasing aridity initiated a crisis for both farmers and 
herders. An extended drought reduced both annual crop yields and the overall 
carrying capacity of nomadic grazing grounds. An alternative, or perhaps com 
plementary theory posits human-caused environmental deterioration through 
over-grazing, soil depletion, salinization, deforestation, and other forms of ecolo- 
gical degradation. The impact of either or both of these developments was 
decreasing productivity, increasing social stress, competition for resources, and 
population displacement through migration and war. Given that the legitimation 
of most Early Bronze dynasties was intimately connected to temple ideologies of 
divinely sanctioned kingship and promises of fertility from the gods, drought and 
decreasing productivity with subsequent famine, war, and chaos would have served 
to undermine the legitimacy of reigning dynasts, contributing to the collapse of 
their power and authority. The cumulative result was a period of political disin 
tegration, war, anarchy, social upheaval, and migration. 

Although the precise cause of the urban collapse at the end of the Bronze Age is 
uncertain, the results are clear in both the archaeological and the historical record. 
The major centers of urban civilization and military power in both Mesopotamia 
and Egypt underwent serious decline and even collapse, resulting in the fragmen- 
tation of power and a sequence of wars. At the same time, nomadic or semi 
nomadic peoples from the periphery of the urbanized regions - Amorites, 
Canaanites, Hurrians and Gutians - migrated from their pastoral homelands, eithei 
under ecological pressure or because military weakness of the collapsing central 
authority in the great urban centers created an inviting target. These peoples 
migrated first into the fringes of the urban areas, eventually usurping power in the 
major city-states throughout much of the Near East. In Egypt this infiltration of 
Canaanite semi-nomads occurred mainly in the eastern delta, but the internal 
fragmentation of Egypt in the First Intermediate Period occurred throughout the 
entire Nile Valley. The specific military results of this region- wide transformation 
will be examined in the chapters associated with each region. 

The two centuries following the collapse of the Akkadian empire {2200-2000 | 
are very poorly documented in Syria. In addition to the resurrected Ebla, the 
major city-states of the twenty-second and twenty-first centuries included Aleppo, 
Alalakh, Urshu, Tuttul, Byblos, Carchemish, and Qatna; 21 there were, of course, 
numerous smaller towns and unfortified farming villages which were generally 
dependent on the larger city-states. By the twenty-first century the city-state of 
Ebla ruled a mere skeleton of its former empire (HE2 101-33). If Astour's recon 
struction of events and synchronisms are correct, Ebla was destroyed by Human 
invaders around 2030 (HE2 133-71). Unfortunately, we have almost no eon 
temporary indigenous records describing the military tons between the city-states 
during this period. The only other textual example we have oi post Akkadian 



iesopotamian military intervention into Syria comes from the reign of Shusin of 

1 k {2037-2029}, who campaigned up the Euphrates to the "land where cedars 

e cut" (R 3/2:191; SHP 36). On the other hand, archaeological excavations 

■ -Hen discover "burn layers" which indicate destruction by fire, frequently assumed 

I > have been caused by war: "an unchronicled episode in the never-ending drama 

warfare between neighbours that was characteristic of Syria's early history" 

< 1/2:339). Such burn layers can only be roughly dated by stratigraphy; further- 

ftore, it is impossible to know for certain who destroyed the city, or why. But their 

■stence does point to ongoing serious wars resulting in frequent sieges, capture, 

-ml the destruction of cities. 

AttiGvites in Syria 22 

1 I 1 Syria the late Early Bronze crisis witnessed widespread urban collapse, popula- 

lon decline, decentralization, and devastation (HE2 164-71). Some sites, like 

i ari under the shakkanakku (descendants of the Akkadian installed "governors") 

' 150-1900}, survived the crisis relatively unscathed, and indeed, seem to have 

>spered (AS 286-7). Many sites were destroyed and never reinhabited. Others, 

ike Ebla, were burned and "reduced to minuscule, short-lived villages" (AS 283) 

ii habited by impoverished squatters (AS 294). Some cities, however, like Nagar 

f II Brak) and Urkesh (Tell Mozan) managed to survive the crisis, though often 

iih reduced population, wealth, and power. Overall twenty major cities in Syria 

r< known to have been destroyed during this period (HE2 164-71). 

Many cities which survived in one form or another experienced major dynastic 
hilis, with new Amorite elites rising to power. Thus, by the twentieth century 
\i norite warlords had come to power in most of the major city-states in Syria. 
I hey were rivaled in the Khabur triangle in north-eastern Syria by Hurrians, 
migrants from Anatolia who slowly became the dominant ethnic group (see 
■p 303-7). The shift from the Early to the Middle Bronze in Syria is clearly 
n nked in the material culture of ceramics, figurines, and house and town plan- 
ning (AS 291). 

Middle Bronze Age Syria {2000-160G} 23 

B the twentieth century the crisis which had resulted in the decline of urban 
ivilization in the Near East had largely played itself out. Changing ecological, 
" Lai, and political conditions apparently again favored urbanization; major city- 
i lies reappeared, while older surviving sites grew in size and power. The transi- 

tii hi from Early to Middle Bronze is characterized by many new archaeological 
I ".logics, including pottery styles, other forms of material culture, weapons, 

fortification styles, art, and language. The Middle Bronze Age is a period of the 

revival of urban life; one way in which this is manifest is by increasing military 
i unpel ition between e\p.unlmi» < it v states. Though still woefully fragmentary and 

in.uletju.ite, [he i.mj'e ijiuntin .mil ijuality of our sources for military history 



improve dramatically in Middle Bronze II (SHP 39-40, 44-9), especially in rein 
tionship to the late Middle Bronze archive at Mari. 

Nearly all of the known names of Syrian rulers in the Middle Bronze period arc 
linguistically Amorite; the exceptions are those of north-eastern Syria, which arc 
predominantly Hurrian (see Chapter Eleven). Amorite-dominated dynasties wen 
established in most major cities by the beginning of the Middle Bronze period 
Some of these dynasties, such as Byblos and Ugarit, proved quite stable and long 
lasting, in contrast to the political anarchy and dynastic instability character izi in-, 
the end of the Early Bronze Age. Most of the city-states of Syria shared a relate* I 
military system which can be reconstructed in broad strokes from surviving artistit 
and archaeological sources. 

Warriors of Middle Bronze Age Syria (MM 25-31; MK 148-50) 

As with most of the ancient Near East, our major source of information for arms 
and armor in Middle Bronze Age Syria comes from archaeology and art, supple 
mented by important scattered references to weapons in the Mari archive aixl 
other texts. Archaeologically, we are fortunate that the massive collections oi 
votive objects found at the temples at Byblos included a large number of actual 
weapons, which allows us to make a precise one-to-one correlation between tin 
weapons seen in art and those found in the temple- offering hordes (SAF §120-30. 
MW; AW 1:174-5; WM 153-6). These include dagger blades (patrum, MM 30), 
javelin and spearheads, both socketed and riveted, the "duckbill" and "eye" axes 
and narrow socketed axes with chisel-like heads. 24 Bronze spears (sinnum) are the 
most commonly mentioned weapon in the Mari archive (L 195, 239, 383, 446, 
516); some of them were poisoned (L 385). One force consisted of 2000 spearmei 
(L 195). Javelins are also mentioned at Mari (L 467, 497, 516). Some of these wen 
ornamental weapons of pure gold designed for ceremonies rather than fight in 
(AW 1:170—1). Such ornamental weapons were presumably for officers, elite sol 
diers, or troops on parade. One text from Mari mentions "ten gold-plated bron/t 
spears, forty silver-plated bronze spears and 250 bronze spears" (L 324). 

There are several significant transitions from the Early to Middle Bronze agi 
such as shields, axes, socketed weapons and sickle-swords. In the Middle Bron: 
Age, although the mace (kakkum) continued in use for ceremonial purposes, sin I 
as the example found at Ebla (EDS 236, 239-40), the mace as a practical weap< 
essentially disappeared, being replaced by the axe (hassinnum) (MM 28-9; MW, 
AFC 76). Increasingly weapons were made with a socket which into which tl 
wooden haft was inserted. This permitted the head of the weapon to be mm 
more securely fastened to the haft, thereby decreasing breakage. 

The tradition of making figurines of armed warrior-gods that began in tii 
Early Bronze Age continued throughout the Middle Bronze as well. One collei 
tion comes from northern Syria around the beginning of the Middle Bronze A. 
{2100-1900} (SAF 15, §10-18). Each figure in this style once held two weapon 
one in each hand. Unfortunately many of the we.ip< nw ■ >l the Ihmii mes are missm 



i the forty-one figures from this period, all but ten lack weapons. The early fig- 

nes in this collection are very crudely done, with the quality of the later figures 

i (proving. Many figures are nude, but others wear the standard Syrian-Canaanite 

ill with a broad leather belt. The most frequent weapon is the javelin or short 

in listing spear. Six figures have a type of baldric around their right shoulders with 

bronze daggers attached, which hang about halfway down the front of the chest; 

others have daggers on their belts. Three figures hold what seem to be early 

u kle-swords, which were probably elite weapons. Two figurines from Ugarit have 

irques, and are armed with maces (SAF §18). 

I he figures associated with the Orontes Valley from Syria are found throughout 

he Middle Bronze Age {2000-1600} (SAF 15, §19-27), and contain a number of 

ilitary innovations which might be associated with the Amorites. There are, 

'■ »ne the less, a number of points of continuity with earlier warriors. The standard 

■ess continues to be a knee-length kilt with a broad leather belt. However, the 

1 1 Mic of the kilt is often ornamented with lines and patterns. Headdress also 

i omes ostentatious, with tall, pointed conical hats (divine crowns), and some- 

nes fan-like flourishes which may be feathers (SAF §24-5). Several figures also 

I e torques around their necks. The dagger becomes more prominent, again 

nerally hung in mid-chest from a shoulder baldric (SAF §19), though sometimes 

i. i-d in the belt (SAF §21). Most figures have two other weapons in addition to 

ii sheathed dagger. The spear, dagger, mace combination of the Early Bronze 

is replaced by spear, dagger and one of two types of axe: the "eye" or the 

"duck-bill" axe (SAF §19; AW 1:166-8). 

\nother innovation of this period is the shield and axe combination (SAF §94, 

98). Shields are mentioned in the Mari texts (L 239). From the figurines they 

in to be of typical Canaanite style, shown in several Egyptian depictions of 

■ .unite warriors (see Chapter Seventeen). The Canaanite shield is rectangular 

hape with small triangles cut out of the top and bottom; they appear to be 

I hie from animal skins with the pointed projections on the four corners being the 

• in shoulders. If proportional, the shields held by the Orontes figurines are quite 

i ill almost bucklers - perhaps 35 cm long and 20 cm wide. Egyptian depictions 

•I the same Canaanite shields show them much larger, capable of protecting most 

1 the upper torso. Seeden believes that the sculpters were forced to make unu- 

u.illy small shields for the figurines due to the limitations of the casting process 

SAF 144); it is likely that the actual size of the shield depicted by the Egyptians is 

limit' accurate. 

1 he Litest and largest archaeological find of armed god figurines comes from 

Ivblos, where several hundred have been found, again covering the entire Middle 

nze period. Most of these are small, poorly made, and with no surviving 

■ apons; they seem to have been mass produced as inexpensively and quickly as 

ible. Some, however, preserve a number of military details. Some have a long, 

I headed thrusting spear in the left hand, a long-hafted semi-circular axe in 

i I'lu , and a dagi.u*i tin list in the broad belt (SAF ft 195, 774, 1 107). The axe is 
( prominent amour Mit\i\mi» weapons f S A I //22H, 231). Another has a 


small shield, axe and dagger thrust: in his belt (SAF #281). The Early Bron/ 
baldric has disappeared; the daggers of the Byblos figurines are invariably tucked n 
the broad belt, either at the front or the left side (SAF #769-73). Though tix 
weapons are usually missing, by comparing poses and the empty sockets of weap 
onless figurines with similar figures whose weapons remain, it is possible to 
extrapolate that the spear-axe or shield— axe combinations are by far the mosi 
common (SAF §34, #307, 511—16). The widespread use of the dagger-axe-spe.u 
javelin combination is confirmed by both archaeological and Egyptian artist i< 
sources. A few figures are armed with two spears, perhaps one a javelin fm 
throwing and the other a thrusting spear, or, alternatively, two javelins (SAF #73. 1 
4, 1502). Many of the figures seem to have tall conical hats which are probably 
divine crowns; some, however, may be helmets (SAF #1129-30). Helmets (qui 
pissum) (L 205) are occasionally mentioned in the Mari texts, but body armoi i 
rare. 25 One warrior may have a bow, though this may simply be a bent spear oi 
even a walking stick (SAF #1406); other than this one possibility, none of thi 
Middle Bronze figurines carries a bow though this may be because of the te( h 
nical difficulties of casting such a weapon (SAF 144). 

A ritual votive basin from nineteenth-century Ebla is ornamented with I 
number of warriors; all of them are bearded, with no headdress, wearing should n 
to-knee robes with patterns and fringes (AANE §448-53; AS 303; EDS 242). I 
one panel three soldiers flanking an enthroned king all carry broad-headed 
thrusting spears overhand, and sickle-swords in their left hand (AANE §448). In 
another panel an enthroned king is guarded by warriors with man-size spin 
held upright and resting on the floor (AANE §450). A hunting scene show 
one man with an axe on his shoulder and another with a bow and quiv( i 
(AANE §451). 

Archery is relatively rare in Middle Bronze Syrian and Mesopotamia!! an 
archaeology and texts. There are two types of bows mentioned in the 
archive: the tilpanum and the qastum. The tilpanum was once thought to have hern 
a "thro wing-stick", but recent research has confirmed it is probably the composite 
bow (MK 148; MM 25); qastum is a more generic term for bow. These bows ai 
mentioned occasionally in Mari texts (ARM 2.116, 7.24, 10.19), but in relatively 
small numbers. Zimri-Lim ordered six tilpanum (ARM 18.21); another texl 
describes thirty being sent to the palace (ARM 9.102). Arrows (ussum) are orden 
in greater quantity, but still in relatively small numbers. Shamshi-Adad orderec 
10,000 bronze arrowheads (samrutum) of six shekels each (about 50 grams), bill w.i 
forced to reduce his order to 5000 because of lack of tin to make the bronze. At 
twenty arrows per archer, 10,000 arrows could equip 500 archers; the 5000 arrov 
he actually got would only equip 250 archers. Another order of arrowhead 
included a number of different weights, presumably for different types of arclu'i \ 
"Have made 50 bronze arrowheads of 5 shekels weight (40 grams) each, S(t 
arrowheads of 3 shekels weight each, 100 arrowheads of 2 shekels weight each, and 
200 arrowheads of 1 shekel weight each" (ARM IS. 5; MK 63). The lightei 
arrowheads, with greater range but less pcmn iint" |mwri ,md also I 

1 >l 


nsive - were more popular. Even so a total of 400 arrows ordered for a siege 
M only equip twenty archers with twenty arrows each. 

I he price was one silver shekel for twenty arrowheads; it is not clear if this is 

• the price of the arrowhead, or if it includes the wood, feathers, and labor cost 

I the arrow as well (ARM 1.38; MM 26). When we remember that ten ordinary 

Uiiers were paid 2-3 shekels for campaign service (one month? three months?) 

I<)9_500; pp. 196-7), we begin to see how expensive arrowheads were. 

iimng the highest pay for the lowest period of service, we get a third of a 

I per soldier per month, which would equate to the value of six or seven 

Jieads. 26 The third of a shekel per soldier does not represent his entire 

.; lie received food, housing, equipment, and booty as well. Nonetheless, in 

idern terms, an arrowhead would probably cost the equivalent of one or two 

idred dollars. One possible reason for the relative lack of archery is simply the 

use of bronze arrowheads. At the same period an axehead required 650 grams 

lonze, the equivalent in weight of seven arrowheads. But the axe could be 

i over and over again, while there was a good likelihood that a bronze arrow- 

■ I would be lost once shot. Bronze arrow ammunition was simply too expen- 

iii the Middle Bronze Age. This expense may have contributed to the 

ularity of the sling {waspum), of which 500 are mentioned in one text (MM 26; 

I IS). 
! he royal palace of Middle Bronze Mari was sacked by Hammurabi in 1759, 
I icrving a unique set of color frescoes on the palace wall, some of which have 
miliary aspects. The overall theme of the murals is the ceremonial investiture of 
e king before the gods, who are sometimes armed. I am here assuming that the 
ip «>ns of the gods reflect the actual weapons used by Mari soldiers from the 
mod - an assumption generally confirmed by archaeology and other artistic 
uirces. The largest mural shows the war-goddess Ishtar investing king Zimri-Lim 
pith royal authority. Ishtar holds a proto-sickle-sword in her right hand, and has a 
Umber of other weapons (axe and mace?) in a quiver on her back (SDA 279). The 
/capons in the back quiver are more clearly depicted in another scene showing a 
ml seated on a throne receiving offerings. Here again the weapons, which pro- 
ucle at an angle over the left shoulder (presumably held in a quiver on the back), 
c the axe, mace, and proto-sickle-sword (SDA 282-3). Two common soldiers are 
bo depicted in the murals (SDA 275, 282). Both warriors are bare-chested, 
raring white knee-length kilts with elaborate fringes. Both have yellow, knee- 
Dgth rapes tied on their shoulders with a white sash. One is beardless, with a 
lute unban-like hat that is wrapped under his chin; a sculpted head of a soldier 
Uo shows this same head-gear. 27 This warrior seerns to have two arrows or jave- 
protruding from his back or side; perhaps they are lodged in his cape. Despite 
. wounds he is brandishing a javelin in his right hand, ready to throw. Much of 
liming is destroyed, but the warrior seems to be leaning slightly backward 
his left arm extended forward at waist level. My impression is that he might 
hnldmgon to a < hat lot I rune will) his left hand, and leaning backward to throw 
| m | u | im j | I1MI • ul, I,, neht hand The other warrior is bearded, without 


head-gear, and is carrying a bundle over his shoulder on an axe or javelin (SDA 
275, 282). 

A final artistic source for Syrian Middle Bronze warfare is martial scenes in 
glyptic art (cylinder seals). Many scenes show the king (or hero, or god) armec 
with a mace (FI §220, 790), or double-armed with mace and dagger (FI §545, 
789) and possibly mace and axe (FI §220). One warrior is shown carrying what 
seems to be an axe, accompanied by another with a bow (FI §686). Another 
weapon which appears occasionally in glyptic art is the sickle-sword (FI §872; see 
pp. 66-71). The warriors are generally depicted wearing kilts and turbans, or some 
type of horned helmet which is generally associated with mythic depictions of the 
gods (FI §220, 545, 789, 790). 

Two late Middle Bronze cylinder seals from Syria are some of our earliest 
examples of the war-chariot, depicting the light, two-wheeled, horse-drawn 
chariot with spoked wheels riding over defeated enemies (Figure 4e, p. 133). 28 
One warrior has a quiver on his back, indicating the use of the bow from the 
chariot; he is also followed by four infantry "runners" or support troops for the chariot 
(FI §729). Another Middle Bronze scene shows people riding what seems to be a 
two -hump ed Bactrian camel (FI §738), the earliest extant depiction of camel-riding, 
which, in the long run, would create a military revolution in the Near East and 
northern Africa, ultimately facilitating the rise of the medieval Islamic world 
empire and West African Berber empires. In the Middle Bronze Age, howevei 
there is no evidence for the military use of the camel, though nomads wen 
probably beginning to use it for transport and logistics in the desert fringes of the 
Near East (EA 1:407-8). 

Maritime power 29 

Unfortunately, due to very limited artistic, textual, and archaeological data, little 
can be said about maritime warfare in the Bronze Age Levant. Only in the Late 
Bronze does the evidence become sufficient to provide details. The two most 
important Early and Middle Bronze maritime cities were Ugarit and Byblos, 
though there were half-a-dozen other major Early Bronze maritime city-states, 30 a 
number that expanded to nearly two dozen during the Middle Bronze. 31 All oi 
these sites were heavily fortified during the Middle Bronze Age. Archaeological 
evidence makes it clear that during the Middle Bronze Age maritime trade was 
occurring between Syria and Egypt, Cyprus, and the Aegean. It can be assumed 
that competition for trade routes would have led to some type of conflict, if only 
piracy, but no specifics are known. 

The Great city-states of Syria in Middle Bronze II 

Syria during the Middle Bronze Age was divided into about a dozen major city 
states, often engaged in fierce military competition I In iiu|t>i Middle Mron/e 



1 1. in city-states included Alalakh, Aleppo (Yamkhad), Byblos, Carchemish, 
Damascus, Ebla, Hama (Amad), Khana (Terqa, Tell Ashara), Mari, Nagar (Tell 
Wc), Qatna (Tel Mishrife), Shekhna (Tell Leilan), Ugarit (Ras Shamra), and 

Mesh (Tell Mozan). 32 In addition, the city-states of Hazor (EA 3:1-5) and 

I ",iddo (EA 3:460-9) in northern Canaan were in many ways part of the city- 
iie military system of Middle Bronze Syria. Generally speaking, political and 
iliiary power in Syria during the Middle Bronze Age was divided among these 

states in a rather unstable system of balance of power, shifting alliances, and 
mpts at hegemonic domination. Overall, Aleppo was the predominant military 
>wer of Syria, with Mari a close second. 

From the fragmentary textual and archaeological evidence we can establish a 

letal history of these city-states and their military interrelationships. Middle 

onze I {2000-1800} is rather poorly documented (SHP 39-40), but after 1800 

archival cuneiform sources from Alalakh, Hattusis, Shekhna (Leilan), and 

pccially Mari become quite rich by Bronze Age standards (SHP 44-9). The 

e dominant city-states in Syria during Middle Bronze II were Aleppo, Mari, 

1 Qatna. After the destruction of Mari by Hammurabi {1759} - a destruction 

hich ironically preserved the greatest surviving archive of the age, a crucial 

urce for military history — Aleppo remained the predominant power for a cen- 

ii v and-a-half until defeated and destroyed by the Hittites around 1600. The 

1 1 campaigns of Mursili in Syria and Babylon {1600-1595}, discussed in 

■ li.ipter Eleven, brought an end to the Middle Bronze period, inaugurating the 

I I sequent three-way struggle for control of Syria between the Hittites, Mitanni, 
K I Egyptians during the Late Bronze Age {1600-1200}. Our information for the 
lilitary history of each of the major Middle Bronze Syrian city-states is rather 

lited, but a skeletal outline of military history can be obtained. 

Aleppo (Yamkhad, Halpa, Halab) 33 

Mthough Aleppo was the most powerful Syrian kingdom during the Middle 

POnze period, it has yielded only limited archaeological data and no textual 

1 I nve because of modern occupation over the ancient site. Enough data survives 

i« II us that, like most other Middle Bronze city-states, Aleppo was defended by 

louble wall - an outer earthen rampart surrounding the entire city, with large 

■i tified chambered gateways and circular towers. There was also an inner citadel, 

low covered by the magnificent medieval Islamic citadel (AS 303). Because of the 

I of texts from Aleppo, we are left largely with incidental references to Aleppo 

ii the records of rival states to reconstruct its military history. 

I hiring much of Middle Bronze II Aleppo was one of the greatest powers of 

tflC Near East. According to the Itur-Asdu letter {c. 1775}: "There is no king 

ho is strong by himself: 10 or 15 kings follow Hammurabi of Babylon, as many 

nllow Kim Sin of Larsa, Ibalpiel of Eshnunna and Amutpiel of Qatna, while 

vcntN kings follow Yarim 1 mi |kinrj of Aleppo" (ANE 1:99). In other words, of 

i i ■-. majot powers m Mescipot.miu and Syria around 1775 Mari, Babylon, 




Larsa, Eshnunna, Qatna, and Aleppo — Aleppo was the most powerful. The "twenu 
kings" who were allies and vassals of states of AJeppo included, at various times, 
the rulers of the major city-states of Emar, Alalakh, Ugarit, and Carchemish. They 
also maintained an on— off vassal relationship with two nomadic tribes in Syria, the 
Rabbeans and Ubrabeans (SHP 52), who sometimes served as mercenary allies oi 
Aleppo. In the late seventeenth century Hittite rulers referred to the king ol 
Aleppo as a "great king", hence he was the diplomatic equal of the Hittite king. 

From various historical sources we can reconstruct a king-list for imperial 
Aleppo, up to the time of the Hittite conquest in c. 1600, with approximate dates 
of the rulers (CANE 2:1202): 

Sumu-Epuh {1810-1780} (SHP 51-4) 
Yarim-Lim I {1780-1764} (SHP 54-8) 
Hammu-rabi I {1764-1750} (SHP 58-9) 
Abba'el I {1750-1720} (SHP 60-1) 
Yarim-Lim II {1720-1700} (SHP 62) 
Niqmepukh {c. 1700-1675} (SHP 62) 
Irkabtum {c. 1675-1650} (SHP 63) 
Yarim-Lim III {c. 1650-1625} (SHP 63-4) 
Hammu-rabi II {c. 1625-1600} (SHP 64) 

The written military history of Aleppo begins around 1805 with a campaign by 
Yahdun-Lim, king of Mari {1820-1798}, who marched from the Euphrates to the 
Mediterranean in search of cedar and other building timber; he claims to have 
subdued the peoples of the area, forcing them to pay tribute. As a result of this 
invasion Sumu-Epuh of Aleppo {1810-1790}, in alliance with a number of sur- 
rounding city-states and nomadic tribes, marched against Yahdun-Lim, who 
claims to have defeated the coalition (SHP 50). Shortly thereafter, however, Yahdun 
Lim was attacked from the east by Ilakabkabu, father of Shamshi-Adad; Mari 
entered a life-or-death struggle with the rising power of Shamshi-Adad (see pp. 168- 
71), culminating in the fall of Mari around 1796. In the last few years before the 
fall of Mari, its king Sumu-Yamam {1800-1796} attempted to organize an alliance 
with his former enemy of Aleppo against the rising Assyrians, but failed to save his 
city (SHP 52). On the other hand, Sumu-Epah of AJeppo seems to have welcomed 
the refugee dynasts of Mari — some would say legitimate kings — to Aleppo, 
invoking the ire of Shamshi-Adad. 

The subsequent power vacuum in Syria was ultimately filled by Sumu-Epuh of 
Aleppo {1810-1780}, who in the two decades following the fall of Mari rose to 
prominence in the region, becoming a major enemy of the rising Shamshi-Adad 
of Assyria. During the last years of Sumu-Epuh of Aleppo, Shamshi-Adad and his 
son Yasmah-Adad {1796-1776}, who had been installed as client king of Mari 
upon its conquest by the Assyrians, allied with Qatna, the major Syrian kingdom 
on Aleppo's southern border, sealing the alliance with a dynastic marriage. The 
smaller independent city-states to the north - Carchemish and Urshu both 


H the anti- Aleppo alliance, leaving Sumu-Epuh surrounded and basically 
unit allies (ARM 1.24; SHP 53-4). Unfortunately, no surviving text describes 
• nit tome of this contest, but somehow Sumu-Epuh managed to forestall con- 
I by Shamshi-Adad, probably by allegiance with Shamshi-Adad's enemies in 

I 1 1 is military crisis was inherited by Sumu-Epuh's son and successor Yarim-Lim I 

1 ' 1 764} (SHP 54-8), who during his reign engineered a dramatic reversal of 

i iu\ He overcame the crisis by a deft alliance with Shamshi-Adad's other 

lies Ibalpi-el of Eshnunna {1779—1765} and Elammurabi of Babylon {1792— 

; Shamshi-Adad was thus surrounded by enemies on the east, south, and 

I hiring this alliance Yarim-Lim is credited with having "saved the city of 

Ion" (SHP 55), presumably by attacking the Assyrians in the rear while they 

engaged in one of their attacks against Babylon. 

n-Lim also had at his court a political wild-card, Zimri-Lim, grandson of 

i Yamam, former king of Mari (L 42), whom many at Mari would have 
idered the legitimate heir to the throne of Mari instead of the usurper and 
n.ui imperialist Yasmah-Adad, son of the warlord Shamshi-Adad (SHP 55). 

I Ins protege Zimri-Lim, Yarim-Lim captured the strategic fortress-city of 
nil on the confluence of the Balikh and the Euphrates in 1777, where Zirnri- 

i was installed as king (L 41). Fortuitously, Shamshi-Adad died the next year 

f» } , creating succession tensions which were exploited by Yarim-Lim 

Zimri-Lim who marched on Mari, defeating and ousting Yasmah-Addu and 

oring Zimri-Lim to the throne of his ancestors as an ally- vassal of Aleppo 

H 2). Yarim-Lim cemented the alliance by the marriage of his daughter Shibtu 

/nnn-Lim, insuring that his grandsons would rule Mari (SHP 56). The tri- 

iphant wedding was attended by the "kings of the whole land" (ARM 26.11). 

Lit ions with Mari remained strong until the city fell to Hammurabi in 1761., In 

last years of his reign Yarim-Lim consolidated his hold on Syria, bringing a 

iiubcr of city-states and kings into alliance or vassalage. The important and rich 

ding city of LTgarit was probably a vassal of Aleppo in this period (SHP 56—7). 

his death in 1764, Yarim-Lim, with his twenty vassals and allied kings (ANE 

I I was the mightiest ruler in the Near East outside of Egypt. 

I he reign of Yarim-Lim's son Hammu-rabi I {1764-1750} (SHP 58-9) was 
ncrally peaceful, with Aleppo maintaining good relations with most of its 
ir.hliois. The city of Carchemish seems to have come under Aleppan dornina- 
"ii iluring this period (SHP 59). An expeditionary force was sent from Aleppo to 
I Babylon, including both regular Aleppan troops and Yamanite tribal con- 
sents (SI II* 59). His reign coincided with the last phase of Hammurabi of 
tbylon's imperialism and the sack of his brother-in-law's city of Mari, but 
I 1 1 ! 1 1 1 1 1 1 i ,i hi of Aleppo seemed unwilling to be drawn into the war with Babylon. 
\bba el ! 1750 1720} (SHP 60-1) also ruled over a fairly peaceful period for 
Ji ppo. maintaining good relations with I lammurabi's successors in Babylon. The 
i.i|<u inoiilrtl military event ol his reign was a rebellion ofZitraddu, governor 
It f it li and sonic othri vassals m nppei Mesopotamia: 

• ,<) 


Zitraddu, the governor of Irridi, revolted against Yarim-Lim [brother oi 
Abba-el, king of Aleppo] and led robber bands and brought them to Irridi, hi 
city. He incited the whole land to rebel against Abba-el [the king of Aleppo | 
The mighty weapon [of the gods, which was decorated] with silver, gold, lapis 
lazuli, [and] the great weapon of the Storm God [were raised against the rebeh 
by the king of Aleppo]. As for Abba-el, he seized Irridi and captured tin 
enemy [robber] bands. To Aleppo he returned in peace. (CS 2:369—70) 

The rebellion was thus suppressed and the rebel city was destroyed. Yarim-Liin, 
Abba-els brother, who had been client-king of Irridi before its rebellion, was 
given the city of Alalakh as compensation, where his descendants ruled as client 
allies of Aleppo for the next century (see pp. 264-5) (SHP 61). 

The reigns of the subsequent kings of Aleppo are only sparsely documented in 
military affairs. Niqmepukh {c. 1700-1630} conquered the city of Arazik ne.n 
Carchemish (AT §7; SHP 62). Irkabtum {c. 1680-1660} campaigned in the 
region of Nashtarbi, east of the Euphrates (AT §33), probably against the expand 
ing power of Hurrian princes in north-eastern Syria (SHP 63). Yarim-Lim III {< 
1660—1640} fought a war against Qatna to the south (SHP 63). Unfortunately, no 
details are known of any of these events. 

Under Hammu-rabi II {c. 1640—1620}, Aleppo faced its greatest militai \ 
challenge since the war with Shamshi-Adad 150 years earlier. This threat came 
from a new unexpected direction, the rising Hittite kingdom to the north unclei 
Hattusilis I {1650-1620} (SHP 64). Although we have no Aleppan records of this 
war, it is clear that Hammu-rabi II was outmatched by the Hittites. Nonetheless, 
through an alliance with the Hurrians, Hammu-rabi II was able to resist ongoinr 
Hittite aggression for over two decades, at one point apparently killing the son of 
Hattusilis and heir to the throne in a victorious battle (KH 102). A few text-, 
mention an Aleppan general Zukrasi, "overseer of the army", who commando I 
the resistance to the Hittite invaders (KH 76; CS 2:369b). In the end, however, 
Mursilis I {c. 1620—1590} crushed the Aleppan army, sacking the capital and 
destroying the kingdom around 1600 (see Chapter Eleven). 



From the perspective of military history Mari is the most important city-state 1 1 1 
ancient Syria. This is in part because of its important role as a major political and 
military power of the day, but more because of the huge archive of 20,000 cunei 
form tablets discovered at its palace, which contain hundreds of letters describing 
military affairs. The military system described in the Mari letters has been dis 
cussed in detail in Chapter Seven. Here I will outline the basic political history of 
Mari during the early Middle Bronze Age. 

Geographically Mari is located on the Euphrates river at a strategic juiictim 
between four ecological, cultural, and political zones: Main Ion .md Sinner to I In 
south-east, Asshur to the north-east, Syria to the imiili i md tin- nom.ulh 



ppe and desert to the south-west. Its strategic location was both a blessing and 

urse; it brought wealth as a trading center, but also frequent invasion as a 

'-sroad between Mesopotamia and Syria. In classical times the strategic 

I economic functions of Mari were transferred to the nearby Roman city of 

• na-Europos, which served as a major Roman frontier fortress against the 

lans until it was destroyed by a siege of the Sasanid king Shapur in 256 CE 

\ 2:173-8). 

As noted above, Mari had been conquered by the Akkadians, where they 
1 1 led a military governor. As Akkadian power collapsed, the governors of Mari, 

iwn as the shakkanakku, siezed virtual independence and formed a dynasty. 

iionghout the Ur III period Mari was governed by seven rulers, although little is 
I now about their military activities (R3/2:439— 50). Under the fifth ruler, Puzur- 

luar, a contemporary of Amarsin of Ur {2046-2038}, Mari apparently became 

I' pendent, with its subsequent two rulers taking the title of king. Sometime 
ound 2000, however, it was conquered by Amorites, who thereafter ruled the 
.is a new dynasty. 

I it tie is known of the kings of Mari in the early twentieth century. For the 

neteenth century, however, we are much better informed. The precise details of 

i ise of Yagid-Lim {c 1830-1820} to power in Mari are obscure; he may have 

md as ruler of nearby Suprum. At some point he gained power over Mari and 

laimed himself independent king. His son Yahdun-Lim {c. 1820-1800} was 

"i ) temporary of the great warlord Shamshi-Adad of Assyria, He undertook a 
rssful military career, transforming Mari into a significant military power in 
opotamia, and a major rival of Assyria. His two martial inscriptions provide 
1 sting details of his campaigns. After securing Mari he campaigned down the 

iphrates, conquering the regions to the south-west. 

Vahdun-Lim, son of Yaggid-Tim, king of Mari, Tuttul, and the land of Khana 
| on the Euphrates south-east of Mari], mighty king, who controls the banks 
of the Euphrates - the god Dagan proclaimed my kingship and gave to me a 
mighty weapon that fells my royal enemies. Seven kings, leaders of Khana 
who had fought against me, I defeated. I annexed their lands., . . I built the 
wall of Mari and dug its moat. I built the wall of [the conquered city of] Terqa 
and dug its moat. Now in a waste, a land of thirst, in which from days of old 
mo king had built a city, I took pleasure in building a city. I dug its moat and 
railed it Dur- Yahdun-Lim ["Fortress of Yahdun-Lim"].. . . I enlarged my 
I md, established the foundations of Mari and my land, and established my 
fame until distant days. (E4: 602-3) 

1 hese victories brought Mari into contact with both Babylon to the south-east 
nl Assyria to the north-east, inaugurating a decades-long struggle for supremacy 
■ Mesopotamia that would he concluded fifty years later under Hammurabi. 
Y.iIuImm I mi next turned his attention westward, towards Syria and the Medi- 



When the god Shamash agreed t:o his supplications and listened to his [Yahdui 
Lims] words; the god Shamash quickly came and went at the side of Yahdun-I m 
[in battle]. From distant days when the god El built Mari, no king resident 
Mari reached the sea, reached the mountains of cedar and boxwood, the grej 
mountains, and cut down their trees, [but] Yahdun-Lim, son of Yaggid-Ln 
powerful king, wild bull of kings, by means of his strength and. overpower! 
might went to the shore of the [Mediterranean] sea, and made a great offering 
[befitting] his kingship to the Sea. His troops bathed themselves in the Sea.. . 
He made that land on the shore of the Sea submit, made it subject to In 
decree, and made it follow him [as vassals]. Having imposed a perman* i 
tribute on them, they now bring their tribute to him. (E4: 605-6) 

The details of this campaign are a bit obscure - no specific city-names .11 
mentioned — and his supremacy in Syria was certainly not unchallenged bi 
Aleppo. It is likely that Aleppo ruled northern Syria, JVlari had vassals in the 
middle, and Qatna dominated the south. 

As with all Mesopotamian warlords, Yahdun-Lims victories did not \ 
unchallenged. His invasion of Syria was a cause for concern for Sumu-Epuh, kin 
of .Aleppo, who orchestrated a revolt against Mari: 

In that same year [as the campaign to the Mediterranean Sea] - Laum, King < 
Samanum and the land of the Ubrabium, Bahlukullim, king of Tuttul and the 
land of the Amnanum, Aialum, king of Abattum and the land of the Rabbuni 
these [three] kings rebelled against [Yahdun-Lim]. The troops of Sumu 
Epukh of the land of Aleppo came as auxiliary troops [to aid the rebel king! | 
and in the city of Samanum the tribes gathered together against [Yahdun 
Lim], But by means of [his] mighty weapon he defeated these three [rebel] 
kings. [. . .] He vanquished their troops and their [Aleppan] auxiliaries ami 
inflicted a defeat on them. He heaped up their dead bodies. He tore down th( 
walls [of their cities] and made them into mounds of rubble. The city (it 
Khaman, of the [nomad] tribe of Haneans, which all the leaders of [the tribe 
of] Hana had built, he destroyed and made into mounds of rubble. Now, he 
defeated their king, Kasuri-Khala. Having taken away their population [Yahdui i 
Lim] controlled the banks of the Euphrates.. . . May the god Shamash, who 
lives in that temple, grant to Yahdun-Lim, the builder of his temple, the kin;' 
beloved of his heart, a mighty weapon which overwhelms the enemies (and) a 
long reign of happiness and years of joyous abundance, forever.. . . [Conclud 
ing curse on enemies:] May the god Nergal, the lord of the weapon, smash In 
[Yahdun-Lim s enemy's] weapon in order that he not [be able to] confront 
[the] warriors [of Mari].. . . May the god Bunene, the great vizier of the god 
Shamash, cut the throat [of Yahdun-Lim s enemies]. (E4: 607-8) 

Yahdun-Lim's victories in Syria, however, were occurring under the shadow ol 
the rising power of Shamshi-Adad in Assyria, who soon < .une into eonflit 1 with 


M „ , Yahdun-Lim's son and successor Sumu-Yamam {1800-1796} was ^unable to 
■U.ntain his father's military success against the power of Ass, «. . ^Man 
conquered by Shamshi-Adad, who made the city a vassal kingdom under his 
'Zh-Adad, who ruled Man from 1796-1776 (E4:615-22). At the death of 
^Adad, Zimri-Lim, probably a grandson of the former king Sumu- 
,„n, was able to retake the city with the help of the king of Meppo During h, 
, fifteen-year reign {1776-1761} he brought Man to the hafr ■ of cuke n. 
. and political power as the staunchest ally of Hammurabi of Babylon, m the 
, However, relations broke down between the two allies leading to war nd 
,„natmg in the conquest of Man by Hammurabi m 1761 {YoB}. Tw ye- 
I -1759} the city was sacked and utterly destroyea, and left essentwly 
inhabited (ANET 270b). The military details of these events are discussed m 

Thereafter the geopolitical role of Man as the major city of the middle 

retas taken by Terqa (Teh Ashara) (EDS 217-22), the capital of the 
I,';;: 5 olKhana. Terqa reLned a vassal kingdom of the B-j£«££ 
, (C ntury and a half until the fall of Babylon to the Hittites in 1595. Thereafter 
.iasty of Human kings was installed, who were integrated into the emptre of 
litanni sometime during the sixteenth century. 

Qatna (Tell Mishrife near Hatna) i5 



i hi 

, was the third most powerful state in Middle Bronze Syria, and often a major 

, al rival to Aleppo. The city covered about 100 hectares, with a possible 

Eon of 25,000. As with most Middle Bronze Syrian cities it was defended 

, huge earth n rampart, 15 meters high, with at least four chambered gate, 

, „,, served as a major emporium for trade routes from Mesopotamra through 

lari to the Mediterranean, Canaan and, indirect^ Egypt 

, he first known ruler of Qatna was Ishhi-Adad {c. 1795-1775} ***** 

, „ a serious military rivalry existed between Aleppo and the house of Shatnsht- 

. ,., of Assyria. Qatna was therefore cultivated as an ally by Shamshi-Adai an 

"marriage was arranged between his son Yasmah-Adad, viceroy of Man, 

cltL daughter of Ishhi-Adad (ARM 1.46, 77; SHP 65). This alliance was 

Ifded to'ctafe a military coalition against Aleppo, which had been raiding the 

1 and flocks of Qatna (ARM 5.17). Assyria and Man sent troops to Qa na to 

SEe a unified attack, but the results are unknown (SHP 54, 66) since Akppo 

,;;; Z and expanded after the death of Shamshi-Adad, it is clear that the alliance 

was ultimately unsuccessful. . 

Wpfel {c. 1775-1755} succeeded his father to the throne; the Man 
Z, "describe him as the equal of Hammurabi of Babylon an d Rini^Sin of 

, ,„h kiimlnvimr "ten or fifteen [vassal and allied] kings who follow 
'. ' (ANP \ Z sllP 68), Following the death of Shamshi-Adad {1776} and the 

p , „, A.,v,;,„ -„„..,, ,1, ere was reconciliation between Akppo and 

SHP,-, u ..Hv involved in se„d,ng auxiliary allied troops 


'(. \ 


to aid Mari (ARM 14.69), and was known for breeding fine horses (ARM 14.88) 
With the end of the Mari archive {1761} our knowledge of the military history ol 
Qatna essentially ends, other than the notice of a war between Qatna and Aleppo 
{c. 1640?} (AT §6; SHP 60). 

Alalakh 36 

Alalakh was a second-tier military power, generally the vassal of Aleppo. Tin 
excavations of the site have discovered signs of the standard rampart, fortified gates 
and citadel of Middle Bronze Syrian defensive architecture (EA 1:57). 

In Middle Bronze II it was ruled by a subsidiary line of the Aleppan royal family 
after Abba-el of Aleppo {c. 1750-1720} installed his brother Yarim-Lim as vassal 
king of Alalakh. 

When the allies [of the vassal city-state of Irridi] rebelled against Abba i 
[king of Aleppo], their [rightful] lord, Abba-el, the king, with the help of the 
gods Hadad, Khepat, and the spear of Ishtar, went to [the city of] Irridi, cap 
tured Irridi, and defeated its troops. At that time Abba-el, in exchange foi 
Irridi which his father had granted [to his brother] , gave Alalakh of his o\\ 1 1 
free will [to his brother Yarim-Lim]. (R4:799; AT 2; CS 2:329, 369-70) 

The text describing the transfer of the city to Yarim-Lim includes a vassal oath 
indicative of the obligations and ritual curses associated with vassalage. 

Abba-el [the king of Aleppo] swore the oath [to give the city of Alalakh | 1 1 
Yarim-Lim, saying: "If I take back [the city] that I have given you, may I be 
cursed." If ever in the future Yarim-Lim sins against Abba-el, or if he gi\> 
away Abba-el's secrets to another king, or if he lets go of the hem of Abba I 
el's garment [as a ritual gesture of vassalage] and grasps the hem of anot li- 
king's garments [thus becoming the vassal of the other king], his towns anc 
lands he shall forfeit. (CS 2:370) 

This branch of the Aleppan royal family ruled Alalakh as vassal-allies of Aleppo 
for the next several generations, including Yarim-Lim {c. 1740—1720}, his son 
Ammri-taqumma {1720—1700}, and his grandson Irkabtum {1700—1680}. Ii i 
occasionally mentioned in the affairs of state of .Aleppo. Alalakh is noted for thi 
preservation of roughly 175 tablets from the eighteenth century (level VII) .in. I 
another 300 from the fifteenth century (level IV) (AT; EA 1:59-61), which high 
light a few military matters of the period (AT §2). Alalakh was destroyed dm in 
the wars of Hattusilis the Hittite around 1640, but later rebuilt. 

During the reign of Irkabtum {1700-1680}, the king was said to have "mad 
peace with [the warlord] Shemuba and his Habiru [-warriors]" (AT §58). Tin 
Habiru (Hapiru, Apiru) were "fugitive" bauds, mercenaries, briivmd 
outlaws, or robbers; similar robber hands have internum nth infested parts of ih< 



ar East throughout its history, most recently in the form of insurgents in Iraq. 
I hey are occasionally mentioned as serving as mercenaries in armies in the Mari 
" 7 The Habiru became quite widespread in the Late Bronze Age, when they 
re frequently mentioned both as mercenaries and as independent raiders. 38 An 
ample of Habiru activities is found in the fifteenth- century story of Idrimi, a 
• bin Hood-like dispossessed citizen of Aleppo who fled to the wilderness and 
i a me a Habiru, eventually returning to capture Alalakh and become its king (CS 

Ugarit (Ras Shatura) 39 

irit, an important Early Bronze kingdom, was destroyed in the twenty-second 
iitury in the anarchy at the end of the Early Bronze period. It was rebuilt around 

000 by Amorite warlords, whose martial tombs contain an important collection 
copper/bronze duckbill axeheads, socketed spearheads, daggers, and torques — 

l< standard axe-spear-dagger Middle Bronze armament (AS 296; MW). Molds 
'"i easting bronze weapons were also found in the city. A stele from Ugarit of the 
■ >i m/war-god Baal from the end of the Middle Bronze reflects the armament of 
H age. Baal, with flowing shoulder-length hair and beard, wearing a kilt and 
lietal?) helmet, is armed with a mace, a dagger, and a long, broad-headed 
ii listing spear (AANE §74; EA 5:261). The city was strongly fortified by a mas- 
C rampart wall with a remarkable surviving gate complex including a stone 

1 it is, narrow stone gate, hidden entry ramp, large square stone tower and postern 
ite (EA 5:258-9). 

I Fgarit, along with Byblos, was one of the most important Levantine maritime 

I '\vers of the age, maintaining extensive trade connections with Cyprus, the 

I moans of Crete, the Aegean, and Egypt. They were especially noted for their 

I of transshipping tin across the Mediterranean (SHP 77). Unfortunately, unlike 

I ate Bronze period when Ugarit 's archive is one of our most important his- 

n i< al sources (EA 5:262-6), the Middle Bronze period at Ugarit is poorly 

■ umented. An incomplete ancestral king-list of Ugarit mentions fourteen 
In Kile Bronze kings with Amorite names, beginning with Yaqaru, the presumed 

inder of the Amorite dynasty at Ugarit around 2000. 40 The kings of Ugarit 

re either vassals or close allies of Aleppo during most of Middle Bronze II. No 

Mils of their military history are known. 

Byblos (Gubla, Gebal, Jubayl) 41 

1 In Phoenician coast lacked the great agricultural resources of Mesopotamia and 
I j'.vpt, hut was instead blessed with access to huge forests of cedar and other hard 
woods, some metal resources, and, most importantly, a long coastline with several 
natural harbors. One oi the most ancient and important coastal settlements was Byblos, 

• I in Ii dm Hi!-, the Ikon/e Ayr was (he i-iratest trading and maritime city in the Levant. 
H\ bins I Mci i sen lei I in th« Wnlnlm pel lod hv .it least the fifth millennium, as 


a small village near a perennial spring, slowly developing into a fall city. The earliesi 
cultural influences, like those of all Syrian and Lebanese cities, came from Meso 
potamia, but by at least the reign of Khasekhemwy {2714—2687} of Egypt, Egyptian 
trade and cultural influences began steadily to grow. By the Middle Kingdom, Bybl< i 
was a large and fantasticaUy wealthy city with strong and friendly ties to Egypt. 

Byblos was destroyed by war in around 2800, after which it was rebuilt with .1 
magnificent fortification system including massive stone walls, two known gates 
and a glacis. The city was again destroyed sometime around 2300-2100 by an 
Amorite invasion; Amorite princes ruled Byblos in the subsequent centum 
including the kings buried in the nine royal sarcophagi. In the fourth millennium 
the primary weapon found in burials is the pear-shaped macehead, common al < 
in Mesopotamia and Egypt (Cl/2:344). This gave way in the Early Bronze Age i< 
the standard Bronze Age arsenal of large spearheads, daggers, and axes of several 
different styles (MW). Some were highly ornamented ceremonial weapons, such .in 
a gold dagger sheath (AANE §72). 

As with so much of the Near East outside of Mesopotamia and Egypt, the la< \ 
of surviving historical, records does not permit the reconstruction of the military 
history of Byblos. 42 The names of a number of the Amorite kings of Byblos ha\. 
been discovered, largely from the Middle Bronze period, allowing us to recon 
struct a tentative king-list. 43 The name of the first known Middle Bronze I king o! 
Byblos, Ibdadi {c. 2000}, is linguistically Amorite (LMB 103; SHP 40); he is ofti n 
thought to be the founder of the new Amorite dynasty there. 

Cavchemish (Karkamish; Jerablus) 44 

Militarily Carchemish was a second-level city-state. Its importance lay in its stra 
tegic location on the upper Euphrates for the trade routes to Anatolia; the strategit 
resource tin came from Mari to Carchemish in exchange for wine and Anatolian 
horses — another strategic commodity for the rising importance of chariots in 
warfare (SHP 72). A Mari letter from around 1765 describes some of the Anato 
lian horse trade of the king of Carchemish: 

I [the merchant ambassador from Mari] spoke to him [the king of Carchem 
ish] in the matter of the white horses, and he said: "No white chariot horse 
are available. I will give orders that they lead white horses to me where they 
are available. In the meantime, I will have them bring some red Harsamna 
horses." (EEH 121a; L 406) 

The mention of specific breeds and colors of horses indicates that horse breeding \va 
already fairly developed by this time { 1 765 } , and the search for a matched set of w hiti 
horses, presumably for the king, points to the importance of pageantry in chariot i 

Like most Middle Bronze cities, Carchemish was defended by outer walls and 
an inner citadel. Little is known of its Middle Bronze history except for a U 
references in the Mari Archive in the early eighteenth iciiiutv three km 



ft hemish are known from this period: Aplahanda {1786-1766} (SHP 54, 70-2), 

,1 Ins sons Yatar'ami {1766-1764} and Yahdul-Lim {1764-1745} (SHP 73-4). 

blahanda was a strong ally of Shamshi-Adad in his unsuccessful war against 

tl< ppo (SHP 71), but after his death the city seems to have become a client or 

n a vassal to the kings of Aleppo (SHP 72). Upon the death of Aplahanda he 

| briefly succeeded by his son Yatar'ami {1766-1764}, who may have been a 
il of Mari. He was followed by Yahdul-Lim {1764-1745}, who seems to have 
irned to the fold of the Aleppan alliance after the fall of Mari to Hammurabi 
'61}. Thereafter the military history of Carchemish is unknown other than its 
ih ipation as an ally-vassal of Aleppo in the defense of the city of Ursha against a 
p by Hattusilis in the 1620s (SHP 74-7; see pp. 298-300). 

Ebla (Tel Mardikh IIIA and IIIB) 45 

ring the Middle Bronze period Ebla never achieved its former greatness or 

ional predominance, and little is known of its military history. The best-docu- 
nrnted ruler was Mekum, the king (ensi) of Ebla, whose name is mentioned in an 

i iption of one of his governors, Ibbit-Lim (c. 2030}. 46 

As with many other cities in Syria, Ebla was conquered and destroyed at the 
. ml of the Early Bronze Age {c. 2000}, but was re-established as a major military 

■rf\ "* 

hyjur 6: Ramparts of Middle Bronze Age Ebla, Syria {c. 2000-1800}. These earthen 
ramparts were ot initially surmounted by mud-brick walls and towers which have 
collapsed ami einilr.l 
uv: IMioUuuaph In \\ ilium I I miWm 


'.";', l :\ aiC ' 0nq ^Z S ' Wh ° Were C,ther Am0ntes or Huma ™ (HE 2:142 , 

tons om! ^ n) - "^ "T^ " Ebk bUlk a ™ e «^ of forth,, 

"' S ° m * ° f ; he most spectacular of the period, with an earthen rampar, ' 
meters h lg h and 45 meters dud, supported by a stone foundation and Z , 
Small six-roomed tower-forts were built at regular interval, along the rl™ ' 

s~rri d : a : d paiace comp i ex were *° ^^ «* ^ be s 

eparately. A fine gate survives on the south-west of Ebla with angular entrv m, 
Me chambers faced with large stone slabs (orthostats) (AS 295, 2 S-9 EDS 2 T 
Few military details are known of the history of Ebla during this period El, 

tzzvt i ly ^ Me Bronze seems to w ded - ed * b -~ 

o Aleppo in the wake of the imperialism of Shamshi-Adad {1776} after whi< I, 

SiTTi^ m H Nea ; Eastern mlitary affairs - we k — °f - inditi •' 

;™; t i^r m of " eppo by Ms * ■* iate — - — 



he term "Canaan" I will refer to the region occupied by the modern states of 
I Palestine, and Jordan. Unfortunately, textual and artistic evidence is limited 

non-existent from Canaan during most of the Early and Middle Bronze ages. 1 
ire therefore largely dependent on archaeological evidence, along with occa- 
1 notices from the texts of Mesopotamia and Egypt, for our understanding of 
indent military history of Canaan. Although archaeology can provide evi- 

ice that war existed, it cannot provide us with a full military history. The fol- 

ing chart (Table 10.1) outlines the basic chronological periods of Canaan, 2 

I rough comparisons with contemporary periods in Egypt. 

Chalcolithic {4300-3300} 3 

I he Neolithic background to warfare in Canaan has been discussed in Chapter 
toe (pp. 29—30). Two major innovations relating to military history occurred 
iring the Canaanite Chalcolithic period: the introduction of metallurgy and the rise 

i political units known by anthropologists as chiefdoms. The term Chalcolithic 

l.ihlc 10.1 Simplified archaeological chronology of Canaan 




Egyptian periods 

l l'i Paleolithic 











Pottery A 


Pottery B 


' lialeolithic 



1 ii lv Bronze 






Early Dynastic 



Old Kingdom 

Middle liron/c 



First Intermediate 


2000 1750 

Middle Kingdom 

im < 


Second Intermediate 




means "copper-stone" and refers to the development of early copper metallurgy 
which was introduced from Syria, and originally from Anatolia (see pp. 19—23). 
The period is often called Ghassulian, based on the largest and best-excavated site 
at Teleilat Ghassul (EA 5:161-3; DANE 127-8). Although copper working was 
known in Canaan and Jordan during the fourth millennium, it should be empha 
sized that most tools and weapons continued to be made of stone. Copper should 
be seen more like a valuable commodity such as gold, rather than a day-to-day 
metal for use by ordinary people. 

There are a large number of Chalcolithic settlements in Canaan, indicating 
rising population density from the earlier Neolithic period. Many of these settle 
ments are rather small villages, often clustering around a larger central location; 
this characteristic has led some archaeologists to posit the existence of chiefdoms, 
where a larger central city-state dominated smaller surrounding villages. It is sig- 
nificant to note that most Chalcolithic sites were not fortified; this does not mean 
that there was no military conflict during the Chalcolithic period, but probably 
implies that, to the extent there was warfare, it was generally of low intensity. Two 
temples from this period at Ein Gedi (ALB 66-8) and Teleilat el-Ghassul (EA 
5:161—3) had enclosure walls which could have served as a citadel of last resort in 
time of war, and as a model for fortress building. At any rate, these sites demon 
strate the capacity of Chalcolithic peoples to have built fortifications had they been 

From the military perspective the most important characteristic of the Chal 
colithic period was the development of copper weapons. As noted in Chap to i 
One, metal-working originated in Anatolia, with the earliest-known metal 
weapon in the world being a copper macehead dating to c. 5000 from Can Hasan 
in southern Anatolia (ET 125). By the fourth millennium copper- working and 
mace-making technology had spread to Canaan. Signs of copper- working, 
including copper maceheads and axeheads, have been found in the Beer Sheba 
region and at Teleilat Ghassul (ALB 72-3; AW 1:120), but the largest find oi 
copper objects is from the "Cave of Treasure" in Nahal Mishmar, between Ein 
Gedi and Masada, south-west of the Dead Sea. 4 The weapons were cast with a 
sophisticated "lost wax" technique, and the copper has trace elements that show it 
originated in north-eastern Turkey, pointing to long-distance trade either in ore, 
or perhaps in the finished weapons themselves. Among 436 copper objects there 
are 99 mace-like objects of various types (COT 52—89; THL 74). These maces 
have long hollow copper shafts, ranging in length from a few centimeters to a third 
of a meter, ending in a metal ball and frequently with a flared disk at the top. 
Many have spiral or horizontal grooves. Some have rather blunt, spike-like pro- 
jections (COT 53, 57, 61, 64, 83-5; THL 83); others have numerous serrated 
knobs (COT 89), or a flared disk alone (COT 94—7). Some scholars view these as 
ritual objects; others see them as weapons - of course, they may have been both. 

More certainly weapons are the 249 maceheads, which lack the long coppei 
shaft of the other mace-like objects (COT 116—31; TI II 84). These maces are .ill 
smooth and polished, averaging about 5 cm high -"id v id. reueially eithei 



herical or pear-shaped. The vast majority are of cast copper, though some are of 

niatite or stone. Similar maceheads have been found at other Canaanite sites 

■ I )T 116). A few axes and spiked mace-like heads were also found (COT 98-9, 

I >; AW 1:126). Additionally the cave contained a number of copper standards 

Inch were placed on wooden or reed poles and carried in procession (COT 40- 

I 100-3). It is not clear if the standards were designed for religious purposes or 

i e a type of clan totem carried in battle, such as were found among the Pre- 

Miastic Egyptians as depicted on the Narmer Palette (TEM 27, 37, 40). The 

rcsence of nearly 250 maceheads along with another hundred mace-like objects 

nplies a strong militant component in Chalcolithic culture. According to 

proportion of archaeological finds, the mace remained the primary melee 

eapon during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze I periods, after which it 

ipidly decreased in importance (MW 1:173-4), being replaced by daggers, spears, 

ud axes. 

The Ghassulian Chalcolithic Age ended rather abruptly around 3300. Many of 

he most important sites were abandoned and remained unoccupied. It is often 

I teculated that the large copper hoard found at the Cave of Treasure was originally 

om the Ein Gedi temple, which, it is assumed, served as a religious pilgrimage 

ite for southern Canaan (ALB 66-8; EA 2:222-3). The treasure was removed 

from the temple in the face of some threat, and carefully buried in the cave in 

fahal Mishmar, where it remained until discovered by archaeologists five thou- 

ii id years later. The assumption here is that the treasure was hidden in the hope of 

bringing it back to the temple; but the temple was abandoned and the treasure 

never returned. There is certainly a strong possibility that there was a military 

factor in the collapse of the Ghassulian Age, although there is little archaeological 

\idence for fire or other violence at the abandoned sites (ALB 88-9). Some 

holars speculate about the possibility of the migration of new peoples into 

I anaan, again with military elements in the migration, bringing with them new 

ultural patterns. 

Early Bronze Age {3300-2300} 5 

Archaeological evidence for large-scale endemic warfare in Canaan begins in the 
rarly Bronze Age. Bronze Age Canaan is distinguished from the earlier Chalco- 
lithic period by a number of characteristics: new styles of pottery, use of cylinder 
seals, changing settlement patterns, intensification of agriculture, increasing 
population, shifting trade patterns, and, of course, the use of bronze. Many of 
these developments had military significance. Intensification of agriculture and 
increasing population created larger cities, capable of building bigger fortifications 
mk\ fielding larger armies. Broader trade connections brought cultural and tech- 
nological exchange, and hence the transfer of military technology 

For the military historian, however, two characteristics are especially important. 
1 list, we see not onl\ the spread ol the use of copper in weapon making, but the 
development <>l n. - w , i|u >n t\pes, including the axe, tanged daggers, and spear 


,n ni javelin points. 6 The most important archaeological find of Canaanite arsem 
copper weapons comes from Kefar Monash, dating to around 2700, which rex i 
the standard weapons of the Early Bronze Canaanite warrior: spear and da; 1 
(ALB 134; AW 1:42; MW). However, not all burials uniformly contain each < 
these weapons. Some contain only one or the other, while others contain both 
few examples of axes begin to appear as well. The dagger alone seems to be 1 1 
weapon of choice for burial (MW 1:164-5). It must be emphasized that, althouel 
such arsenic-copper weapons existed, flint knives and projectile points were si 
widely used, indeed, probably more widely than copper (ALB 103), with copp 
weapons remaining "either rare or very expensive" (ABL 134). With the dev« 
opment of the arsenic-copper fighting axe during this period, we also see 1 1 1 
decline in use of the copper mace, which had been the most widespread meli 
weapon of the Canaanite Chalcolithic (MW 1:173-4). 

The second development of the Early Bronze Age is the rapid spread .m 
improvement of fortifications (ALB 119-25; 0/2:214-18). Jericho's earli 
Neolithic stone walls and tower were almost unique in Neolithic Canaan; the \ i 
majority of pre-Early Bronze sites in Canaan were unfortified. This would impl 
that whatever military threat Jericho faced was intense, but local. By the E.uls 
Bronze Age military threat had become universal and constant. Although smalli I 
villages remained unfortified, all major cities had massive stone or brick fortifn I 
tions. The building of these fortifications came in two phases. The first phase i 
the fortification process began in Early Bronze I {3300—3050} and II {305(1 
2700}, when cities built defenses of simple stone walls generally 3—4 meters thi< I 
By Early Bronze III {2700-2300}, these walls had doubled in thickness to 2 
average of 7-8 meters, and were reinforced by semi-circular or rectangular town 
bastions, and fortified gates. Some of the towers were huge, reaching 10 me 
thick and nearly 30 meters long. Glacis are found at many of the cities, both t< 
strengthen the foundation of the walls and to prevent ladders and other sir 
equipment from being placed near the walls. The largest surviving fortifications 1 1 
Early Bronze Age Canaan are found at the city of Tel Yarmut, with walls made < >i 
huge uncut stones surviving to nearly eight meters high; the original walls w< I 
even higher (ALB 119-23; EA 5:369-72). The foundations of the Early Bron 
walls at Arad have also been fully excavated, including numerous projecting tow< I 
(EA 1:169-74). 

Although the cities of Early Bronze Age Canaan shared a single materia] cut 
ture, it seems that they were politically divided into about two dozen rival en 
states. 7 The largest Early Bronze Age cities of Canaan ranged in size from 8 to 2 
acres, with populations probably ranging from 2000 to 5000 people per city (A I I'- 
ll 1-13). This would give a maximum fighting force of between 500 and 10(X 
men per city-state. However, most cities seem to have been supported by a niini 
ber of surrounding farming villages, which could double or even triple the 
population, and hence the potential military force, of any given city-state. Rim 
listically the Canaanite city-states probably seldom fielded armies of more than 
1000 men. Most armies were probably numbered in the hundreds 



hile the existence of fortifications in Canaan clearly indicates the presence of 

[ i it does not tell us who was involved in the conflict. A destruction layer at 

I ,n tell us there was a war, but not who attacked. The phenomenon of the 

,ve fortification of Early Bronze Age city-states has been attributed to a 

.nation of three factors: inter-city military rivalry, invasion by Egyptians, and 

idic raids Due to the nearly complete lack of indigenous Canaanite written 

i , or martial art during the Early Bronze Age, the military history of the 

, mite city-states cannot be fully known. A number of assumptions, however, 

[ten made. First, it is assumed that each city-state was independent, broadly 

the lines of the Greek city-state system in the fifth century BC, and in 

v Age Syria and Mesopotamia. This would imply complex shifting patterns 

li inces and confederations, with one city-state occasionally rising to tempor- 

uonal hegemony. A confederation of eight of the two dozen city-states of 

, in could possibly field armies of at most 3000-6000 men, a force large 

ugh to threaten and conquer enemy cities, 

I he second source of military conflict in Canaan was military intervention 
, Egypt, which can be documented in a fragmentary way (ALB 105-8; ECI 
8)- "these military operations will be discussed later (see Chapters Twelve, 
rteen and Sixteen for Egyptian sources discussed here). Some scholars posit a 
ible struggle over control of the copper resources of Sinai and southern 
, m The earliest Egyptian kings of the First Dynasty have brief notices of 
npaigns against Easterners (EDE 71-4). Archaeologically, Egyptian artifacts have 
,, found in a number of southern Canaanite towns, but these could have been 
, ,duced through trade or invasions. At Tel Eram, the largest Early Bronze site in 
ith western Canaan, Egyptian artifacts predominate, probably indicating per- 
cent Egyptian occupation of the city for a century or so under Narmer and his 
l i essors {c. 3025-2915} (ALB 106-7). This city would have served as a military 
, c for further raids and attacks, such as those carried out by king Den {2965- 
! , | The Canaanite reaction to the ongoing military intervention of the First 
• nasty Egyptian kings into Early Bronze I Canaan was probably a key factor in 
i ipid militarization and fortification of Canaan. 

I he military threat from Egypt decreased, but did not entirely disappear, in the 

ibsequent centuries. The large Canaanite city of Arad was sacked and burned in 

,und 2800, 8 possibly by Egyptian invaders. Arad's connection with the copper 

lources of southern Canaan and the Sinai may have made it a magnet for attack 

\| B 1 J4). The Egyptian king Peribsen {2734-2714} claims to have been the 

conqueror of Canaan (inw Sit)" and "conqueror of foreign lands (inw h3stf' 

\NET 228a == EDE 89-90), indicating military intervention in that region. 

i ndei Khasekhemwy {2714-2687}, Egyptian trade with Canaan seems to have 

,<vim to shift to sea-routes through Byblos, bringing declining interest and mili- 

urv intervention in southern Canaan. 9 None the less, massive fortification of 

( mimiu . , [tics , onnnU( ,l throughout Early Bronze III {2700-2300}; ifEgyptian 

im |,l.„ x m ,c> venuon de< lined tin. me, tins period, there remained other significant 

itnlit.itx threats leiiimmr < nutmued tnmtuation and vigilance. 



Throughout its history Canaan has been a land of mixed ecological zones wit I 
sedentary and pastoral populations. Even today, a few miles west of Jerusalem o 
the road to Jericho, you can find Palestinian nomads herding sheep. The E;ul\ 
Bronze Age was no different. While there were numerous possible sham 
interests - kinship, religion, economic - between nomad and farmer which might 
lead to cooperation, there was also stress and competition that could lead to con 
fhct, such as competition over water or other limited resources. While it is qmt< 
certain that there were struggles between the city-dwellers and the nomads, it ii 
likely that this rarely took the form of all the nomads uniting against all the cit) 
dwellers. Rather, based on anthropological analogy, we can assume that nomad 1. 
clans were often related by descent, marriage, or shared interests with nearby cii\ 
dwellers; wars more probably were often fought between one city-state and n 
nomad kinsmen and allies, and a rival city-state and its nomad confederate 
Nomadic warfare would be characterized by plundering raids; generally speakin; 
nomads would not besiege and assault the massive city walls of the period on theii 
own. None the less, nomads would have been a constant and sometimes decisive 
element in Canaanite warfare. 

Middle Bronze Age I (or Early Bronze IV) {2300-2000} 


Although we still have found no contemporary written records and few artist u 
sources from Canaan during the Middle Bronze Age, we do have increased writ 
ten sources from Egypt, and, for the first time, Egyptian artistic depictions ol 
Canaanite warriors. We are thus able to have a fuller understanding of Middle 
Bronze warfare. 

The most striking characteristic of the shift from the Early to the Middl< 
Bronze Age is the massive destruction and abandonment of the Early Bronze Age 
cities. Those large cities that were not entirely abandoned were only inhabited In- 
scattered squatters rather than the former dense urban populations of the Early 
Bronze period. Most of the population of Canaan early Middle Bronze I seems to 
have consisted of semi-nomadic herders. There were three factors which con 
tributed to the collapse of urban life in the early Middle Bronze Age: 
degradation, tribal migration, and Egyptian invasion. The exact balance and 
interrelationship between these three factors cannot be determined, but each 
played a significant role. As discussed elsewhere (pp. 249-51), from an 
point of view the twenty-third and twenty-second centuries seem to have been 
periods of serious crisis and drought in the Near East. This was perhaps com 
pounded by deforestation and over-utilization of limited resources by Early Bronze 
cities. Cities facing decreasing productivity would be hard pressed not to attack 
their neighbors to resolve their crisis. Extended drought would have not only 
created a struggle for increasingly limited resources between cities, but would luu 
compelled the nomads to increasing militancy as they sought for depleted wat< I 
and grazing lands, culminating in tribal migration from the marginal ecologicall 
stricken steppe country into the farmland. As nomads plundnrd weakly defendt d 



uining villages, the already stressed food resources of the city-states would be 
«her depleted. Such cities might be willing to submit to a rising nomadic warlord 
Id his confederate clans, and, in predatory fashion, join the attack on the next city- 
Be. Some scholars see widespread nomadic migrations throughout the Near East 
Juring this period, and have associated events in Canaan with the contemporary 
I to power of Amorite princes in Mesopotamia and Syria, 11 broadly paralleling 
k h later Near Eastern migrations of nomadic Arabs, Turks, and Mongols. 
The third factor in the collapse of Early Bronze urbanism was Egyptian inva- 
n. The most striking examples of these are the five campaigns of Weni, under- 
sell in the late Sixth Dynasty {c. 2340}, which are discussed in detail on pp. 336- 
\ Unfortunately, we are not told the precise chronology or the motivation for 
be attacks. Weni simply tells us he invaded Canaan at the head of an army of 
my tens of thousands from all of Upper Egypt" along with Nubian mercen- 
bs. This number is presumably hyperbole, but none the less Weni was probably 
I i he head of an army which was virtually unstoppable by the Canaanite city- 
The devastation wrought by Weni is vividly described in his triumph poem: 

This army returned in safety, 

It had ravaged the Sand-dwellers' land. 
This army returned in safety, 

It had flattened the Sand-dwellers' land. 
This army returned in safety, 

It had sacked its strongholds. 
I his army returned in safety, 

It had cut down its figs, its vines. 
' This army returned in safety, 

It had thrown fire in all its [dwellings]. 
I his army returned in safety, 

It had slain its troops by many ten-thousands. 
This army returned in safety, 

[It had carried] off many [troops] as captives. (AEL 1:20) 

The fundamental problem in interpreting this text is to decide if Weni is 

Dgaged in vainglorious hyperbole, or an accurate description of the actual cam- 

ign. Weni describes destroying the agricultural infrastructure, fortresses, cities, 

nl houses, and killing or enslaving thousands. Furthermore, he engaged in five 


1 lis majesty sent me to lead this army five times, to attack the land of the 
Sand-dwellers as often as they rebelled, with these troops. I acted so that his 
majesty praised me [for it beyond anything]. (AEL 1:20) 

It ra< h of Weill's live i ampai 
lull t i| tin- land w»miM lu\r 

ns conquered and sacked two Canaanite city- 
ncen left desolate. And, in fact, archaeologically, 



that is precisely what we see; all Early Bronze Age Canaanite cities are destroyed 01 
abandoned within a generation or two. It is quite tempting to see Weni 
campaigns - and perhaps other similar unrecorded campaigns — as a crucial factor 
the collapse of Canaanite urbanism at the end of the Early Bronze Age (ECI 63-9) 

The long-term result of the combination of climatic change, environmental 
degradation, intense competition between rival city-states, nomadic migration, 
and Egyptian invasions was the collapse of urban life for several centuries. On tin- 
other hand, several sites in modern Jordan - such as Iktanu (EA 3:143-4), Khirbei 
Iskander (EA 3:188-9), and Aroer (Ara'ir) (EA 1:177-8) - seem to have escaped 
this collapse. These cities show continuity in urban life between the Early Bron/r 
and Middle Bronze Ages, with continuation of the Early Bronze tradition oi 
massive fortification building (ATB 158). For the most part, however, fortification 
building disappears during the early Middle Bronze period. 

This is not to say that warfare disappeared; only that it changed from city-state 
to nomadic clan warfare. The development of pastoralism and small village subsisteru i 
agriculture as the predominant form of social and economic organization in 
Canaan for several centuries was not accompanied by a loss of metallurgical skills 
(AW 156—7). Whether acquired by trade or indigenous manufacture, copper and 
bronze weapons remained important in Canaan, probably used in ongoing clan warfan 
between rival nomadic groups. Indeed, true tin-copper bronze alloying becomes 
widespread only in the Middle Bronze period. Metalworking seems to have been a 
specialty among some nomadic clans, one of which is depicted as migrating n> 
Egypt to sell their metalwork (ALB 166; AW 1:166-7, 59; EWP 124). Some early 
Middle Bronze burial sites include copper or bronze weapons with the grave 
goods (MW; ALB 160, 165—6). These generally include daggers and/or spearheads 
precisely the same weapons found in the panoply of Early Bronze warriors, demon 
strating the continuing importance of the warrior in early Middle Bronze Canaan 

In his manual of political advice for his son Merikare, king Akhtoy of Egypt 
{c. 2090-2070?} gave a description of these warlike nomadic Canaanites oi 
Middle Bronze I: 

But now, these things are said about the barbarian [nomadic] bowmen: the 
vile Easterner is wretched because of the place where he is - lacking in water, 
barren of trees, whose roads are painful because of the mountains. He h;i\ 
never settled in any one place, lack of food makes him wander about on foot! 
He has been fighting since the [mythical] Time of Horus [at the beginning oi 
the world]. He cannot conquer; he cannot be conquered. He does not 
announce the day of battle, but sneaks about like a gang of thieves.. . . Do not 
worry about him! The Easterner is a crocodile on its riverbank that can snatch 
[his victim] from a lonely road but cannot take from the quay of a populous 
town. (TS 223-4 = ECI 67 = AEL 1:103-4) 

Even v/hen the cultural bias of this Egyptian view of ( '.m.i.miie nomads is taken 
into consideration, this text none the less gives us .in mipnit.ini msu;hl into tin 

omadic warriors of Middle Bronze I: migration through barren terrain; constant 
ids and counter-raids, stealthy tactics in search of plunder, and the unwillingness 
come to decisive battle. 

In one sense, the collapse of the Early Bronze city-states strengthened the 

lit.iry position of the Canaanites relative to Egypt. The Early Bronze city-states 

i )anaan represented an ideal target for Egyptian military intervention. They 

re small enough that they could not single-handedly resist the overwhelming 

ilitary force of an Egyptian invading army such as Weni's. On the other hand, 

K v were large enough to provide enough potential plunder to make military 

ion attractive to the Egyptians. The nomads of the early Middle Bronze period, 

the other hand, did not have sufficient wealth to economically justify a major 

ptian attack. The costs of such a campaign to the Egyptians would outweigh 

potential economic benefit from plunder. Furthermore, when faced with an 

ading Egyptian army, the nomads would simply practice their traditional strat- 

of withdrawal and dispersal, waiting for the Egyptian army to depart, after 

iu h they would return to their grazing grounds. Added to this was the problem 

iat, during Middle Bronze I, Egypt was fragmented politically into several rival 

rcgdoms; there were therefore no major Egyptian military expeditions during this 

i iod. Rather, as discussed on pp. 379-81, there are a number of indications that 

naanite and Sinai nomads migrated into the north-eastern delta during this 

iod, whether as mercenaries, traders, or raiders, or simply to graze their flocks 

I I Egyptian pastures. Rather than conquering and plundering cities in Canaan, as 

' in had in the late Old Kingdom, Akhtoy III was found fighting Canaanite 

mads m the delta of Egypt {c. 2025} (TS 223-4 = AEL 1:104). 

Middle Bronze Age II {2000-1550} 


1 1 1 i the coming of the Middle Bronze II period we find a much richer set of 
1 1 u es for the military history of Canaan, with archaeology supplemented by texts 
id martial art, both indigenous Canaanite and Egyptian. Middle Bronze II was an 
i of "almost total revolution in all aspects of material culture: settlement pattern, 
rbanism, architecture, pottery, metallurgy, and burial customs" (ALB 175). The 
me is true for warfare. The most striking difference between Middle Bronze I 
fid II is the re-emergence of a number of large cities with massive fortifications 
I B 176-81, 197-208; AW 1:65-9). 14 While most small rural farming settle- 
K ins remained unprotected, nearly all large cities were strongly fortified. Most of 
new fortification techniques found in Canaan seem to have been introduced 
BfOm Syria, from which colonists migrated into northern Canaan and down the 
nasi (ALB 178—9). A spreading feature of Middle Bronze II fortifications is the 
wilding of massive earthen ramparts in addition to city walls. 15 These seem to 
been designed largely to prevent siege equipment from being placed against 
the walls, hut also to raise the overall height and size of the fortifications. Other 
Mies hmli large gla< is to attempt to perforin a similar function with less expendi- 
ng <i| KM . u 1 1 1 <■■, i'\lll 'n 1 H MnMIc llioii/e Canaanite fortresses were built 



from stone or brick, usually with massive towers and bastions at key position 
Walls ranged from 3 to 10 meters thick and up to 10 meters high. Some sites, HI 
Hazor, had fortified citadel and palace complexes on higher ground which con 
be defended independently in the event of the fall of the main city. Hazor was 1 1 
largest Canaanite city-state during this period, covering an area of 80 hectan 
with a potential population of 20,000. One of Hazors kings, Ibni-Adad (c. 177< 
is known from northern Syrian texts to have been involved in international affai 
there (SHP 54). City gates were strongly fortified, with long narrow hallu a 
chambers for guards, and huge wooden gates. A remarkable arched brick gatev 
survives at Dan (Figure 7; ALB 207; THL 93). By the late Middle Bronze II 
standardized fortified gate begins to appear; surviving examples are found • 
Gezer, Hazor, Yavneh-Yam, and Shechem. 16 These new gates, sometimes 
"Solomonic", were flanked by two huge towers, with guardrooms, and sin 
allowing ascent to upper levels. The gatehouse was divided by pilasters into t> 
inner chambers and had two huge wooden gates, allowing a double defense ag.m 
any assault (ALB 205-8). These massive fortification programs indicate 
Middle Bronze II was an age of serious and sustained military threat. 

Archaeologists have discovered a number of well preserved bronze wen 
from Middle Bronze II which give us a good understanding of the basic Cana.n 
panoply of this period (MW 1:168-70; ALB 184-5, 218-19; AW 1:166-75). 
addition to the spear and dagger of earlier times, the axe becomes increasin 

Figure 7 Middle Bronze Age gate at Tel Dan, Israel {c. 2000 1800}. Tins ^.in- 
stone foundations, a brick arch over the gateway, thick high walls, and p 
towers flanking the gate. 

Source: Photograph by William I lamhlin. 



prominent, as it does in late Old Kingdom and Middle Kingdom Egypt (Figure 
l 1, p. 69). This spear-axe-dagger weapon combination in tombs is not, however, 
Universal. Some burials have only one, while others have a combination of only 
o of the three (MW 1:168-70). Another striking characteristic of the archae- 
ological record is that, although the bow appears as an important Canaanite 
tpon in numerous Egyptian textual and artistic sources from the Middle King- 
bm, arrowheads are rarely found in Middle Bronze tombs in comparison to other 
ipon-types (MW 1:144-6). This should alert us to the fact that weapons asse- 
nted with burial practices are more concerned with social status and religious 
itual than with the actual practical military usage of the living (MW 1:149-61). 
i ewise, perishable weapons, such as bows, will be inherently under-represented 
archaeology when compared to bronze weapons. 

Another development in weapons technology in Middle Bronze II is the 

ippearance of the curved sickle-sword, or scimitar (Egyptian hps) (AW 1:60—1). 

I he origins of this weapon in twenty-first century Mesopotamia are discussed 

where (see pp. 66-71; Figure 2a— f, p. 67). In Palestine a single example is 

lown from Shechem, although three such weapons were found at the royal 

mbs of Byblos (MA 1:142-3, 2:514; AW 1:172). Syrian or Canaanite sickle- 

>ids may also be mentioned as plunder taken in an Egyptian raid in Syria during 

reign of Amenemhet II {1929-1895} (ECI 79 n49). They are also depicted as 

»li vine weapons in contemporary Mesopotamian art (AW 1:173). Their association 

1 1 1 1 royal tombs and gods has led Graham to suggest that they may have been 

« i al or even uniquely royal weapons (MW 1:170—1). A final new weapon to 

ippear in Middle Bronze II is the almost spike-like narrow-bladed axe (Figure 2g, 

I 69; AW 1:60, 174; MW 2: figs 1-4, 8, 57). Yadin suggests it originated in 

Mesopotamia, where it was specially designed to pierce helmets or armor (AW 

I 60; MW 1:176-7); it was later traded or copied in Canaan, even though there is 

evidence of armor in either Egypt or Canaan during the Middle Bronze. 

I ; •, vptian artistic sources confirm and supplement our archaeological inforrna- 

■II about Middle Bronze Canaanite dress and weapons. 17 The most famous of 

icse is the tomb of Khnumhotep at Beni Hasan (Tomb 3), with its splendid color 

unials depicting the arrival in Egypt of an armed Canaanite caravan under the 

i hicftain Abisha (AW 1:166, OHAE 192). Canaanites in Egyptian art are generally 

imvn dressed in multi-colored kilts and tunics, but none are shown with armor 

1 helmets. Canaanite warriors are armed with all types of Middle Bronze weap- 

including bows (AW 1:166-7; EWW 38), javelins (AW 1:166-9), fighting 

iuks (BH 2 §15b; AW 1:159, 166-7), slings (BH 2 §5b, §15b; AW 1:159), axes 

[lit I 2 §5b, §15b; AW 1:59, 169), large curved axes (BH1 §16; AW 1:166-9), and 

on/e daggers (BH 2 §5c). Many Canaanite warriors were double-armed with 

i i missile and a melee weapon, or with two melee weapons. These include 

K itlv every possible combination of weapons: 

• axe and iiphnnp sin \ lot slmp, ; 1 (HI I 2 fj 1 5b) 

• Ihiw ami simp, mi liphtmp mi, 1 i (111 I ' ijSr, I fj47) 


• bow and bronze dagger (BH 2 §5c) 

• sling and bronze dagger (BH 1 §47) 

® bow and axe (BH 2 §5c, 1 §47; AAK 2/1.8) 

• large curved axe and javelin (AW 1:169; AAK 2/1.7) 

• large curved axe and axe (AW 1:169) 

® bronze dagger and large curved axe (TEM 150-1) 

Although no Canaanites have armor or helmets, some are shown carry m 
distinctive rectangular shield with triangular indentations on the top and bun. 
(BH 2 §15b; EWW 38; AAK 2/1.9); only one Canaanite is shown with 
Egyptian-style shield (BH 2 §5b). All Canaanites with shields are armed with a 

Egyptian martial art depicting Canaanite warriors can be supplemented I 
indigenous Canaanite art from scattered scarabs, seals, and religious artifacts, m 
of which is stylistically strongly influenced by Egyptian, Syrian, and Mesop< 
mian iconography (ALB 222-3). From the military perspective, these sou., 
often depict gods or heroic figures armed with contemporary weapons I 
weapons depicted include knives (GG §7-8), bronze daggers (GG §39e 18 ), 
(GG §29), and long-handled "duckbill" axes (GG §35). Some warrior-god 
double-armed with mace and axe (GG §30) or mace and sickle-sword (GG § I 
Highly abstracted and stylized depictions of the Canaanite weather-god sh< 
him standing in the traditional pharaomc smiting pose; the weapon held b\ i 
god, if any, is unclear, but would presumably be an axe or mace (G( J 
These few examples of Middle Bronze Canaanite martial art confirm the an h, 
ological and Egyptian data reflecting the military importance of daggers and a 
To these can be added an eighteenth century vase painting showing two Can., i , i 
warriors in a duel with daggers (AW 1:72). Both the overall quantity and detail 
art and the prevalence of martial themes greatly increase in the Late Bronze \ 
(GG 49-132). 

Indigenous contemporary Canaanite written sources appear for the first dm. 
the Middle Bronze Age. Unfortunately, these amount to half a dozen texts froi 
Hazor and Gezer written in Akkadian on clay tablets, none of which contain i 
nificant military information (ALB 224). The other major possible Middle Broi 
text is the Abraham tradition m the Bible. However, the use of the Bible < 
historical source for the Middle Bronze Age is fraught with controversy. In,, 
pretations range from fundamentalist views that every detail of the biblii 
narrative is not only historical, but merrant, to minimalist views that nothing 
the biblical accounts can be accepted as authentic history unless confirmed I 
non-biblical sources. 19 In many ways such debates are more about theology tli „ 
history, often thinly masking a much deeper debate about the overall spiritu.l 
authenticity and authority of the Bible. None the less, similar debates In 
occurred in classical studies, concerning for instance the historicity of I Jo,,,, , 
account of the Trojan War, or late Greek traditions about much earlier (ho 
history. The fundamental question is: how much historic..] c redence should h 
placed in a late text purportedly descrihm r ,-wui ,| M , IHlllll( ,| {( , [h|M 

! ' 


icr? This is linked to related questions concerning the reliability and durability 
i il traditions. The answer is, of course, that some parts of oral traditions pre- 
• authentic ancient information, while other parts represent later mis- 
it (standings, accretions, conflations, or outright fabrications. The problem 
nines determining which parts of the ancient tradition are authentic and which 
I are inaccurate. Thus, although the biblical Abraham tradition should be 
i ( >ached with caution as a source for Middle Bronze warfare, it should not be 
I rom the perspective of military history, the most interesting Abraham tradition 

I lenesis 14, which describes a war between rival city states in Canaan (M = 
M H A §24). The story is apparently a very old one, since the author of the text feels 

need to repeatedly explain things to his contemporary readers (i.e. Iron Age 

lues), such as the current names for a number of the ancient place-names he 

(Genesis 14.3, 6, 7, 15, 17). Attempts to identify the kings mentioned in the 

i v through other contemporary records have failed. In military terms the story 

of a coalition of four kings from the north (14.1), who forced a coalition of 

kings of Canaan to "serve" them as tributaries for twelve years. After this, the 

ii hern Canaanite kings rebelled (14.2—4), bringing swift reprisal by way of an 

ion from the army of the northern coalition. The story describes a patch- 

I of ethnic groups in Canaan — Rephaim, Zuzim, Emim, Horites, Amalekites, 

i Amorites (14.5-7) - each of whom inhabited small independent enclaves in 

inaan and Transjordan, and were defeated in turn by the northern coalition. The 

«i ul of Canaan is inhabited by numerous tribal groups and city-states, each ruled 

in independent king (melek), which form into rival coalitions competing for 

■'inony. Defeated enemies flee and are ruthlessly hunted down (14,10); 

li feated cities are plundered and their inhabitants enslaved (14.11). A wealthy 

I | h (werful nomad, Abraham, whose semi-urbanized kinsman Lot is swept up in 

i riaos of war (14.12), calls upon his allied tribal chiefs (14.13), while mus- 

tring men from among his own tribal warriors (hamk: "trained" or "dedicated"?) 

14.14) to rescue his captured kinsman. Abraham's tribal army of 318 men was 

I I laps matched by similar numbers from his three allied Amorite nomadic chiefs 
M unrc, Eshkol, and Aner; this would give the nomads an army of 1000—1200 

Ben, a force which was apparently strong enough to ambush and defeat the 

ombined field armies of the four enemy kings (14.15) and free his kinsman Lot 

tin! all the other captives (14.16). A sacrifice of thanksgiving for victory in 

Ittle, along with a tenth of all the plunder, is piously offered to Melchizedek, the 

Miest of the god El Shaddai ("God Most High"), who then blesses Abraham 

MIS] 9) . Thereafter some of the remaining spoil is returned to its rightful 

• in as and punctiliously divided among the nomads (14.21-24). The story makes 

i .11 military sense when compared with all the other fragmentary con- 

tnporary Middle Bronze evidence that we have. This does not, of course, prove 

dial the story is historical n may simply be a fictional legend with historical 

verisimilitude, hut this obsimvs the real point for our purpose here; as we 

have seen elsew hen-, an. h mi iuiht.n\ In tion often tells us more about the realities 



of ancient warfare than the often tendentious contemporary royal propaganda 

Biblical traditions also provide us with possible ethnographic and geography 
information on the Middle Bronze Age, in the form of traditions about ancient 
inhabitants of Canaan who preceded the rise of Israel. These people are known .1 
Nephalim (Numbers 13.33), Anakim (Numbers 13; Joshua 14-15), Rephaini, 
Emim and Horites (Deuteronomy 2:10-12). They are described as ancient, wai 
like, and fearsome people of great strength and size (Numbers 13.32-3). Such 
descriptions are believed to represent Israelite recollections of the warlike pre 
Israelite peoples from perhaps the late Middle Bronze through the Late Bronze 
Age who built the huge ancient ruined fortresses the Israelites saw — it must be 
remembered that, by the time of the Israelite kingdom, some of the ruined Bronze 
Age cities were already well over a thousand years old. 20 

Egyptian military intervention in Middle Bronze Canaan will be discussed in 
detail in Chapter Sixteen. These Egyptian sources contain several strikine 
descriptions of the warfare of Middle Bronze II Canaanites. The historicity of tin- 
Egyptian "Story of Sinuhe", like the tale of Abraham's war with the four kings, is 
disputed. None the less, the tale of Sinuhe is certainly contemporary with the Middle 
Bronze Age, and thus provides a crucial snapshot of contemporary Canaaniti 
warfare. The broader context of the story will be discussed later (pp. 430-3); hen- 
we will only review Sinuhe's description of Canaanite arms and warfare. Sinuhe 
describes the military life of Amorite pastoralists in the nineteenth century: 

When the Canaanite [rulers of the city-states] conspired to attack the [nomad | 
rulers of the Hill-Countries, I opposed their movements. For this ruler of 
Canaan [Amunenshi, the tribal chief and Sinuhe's father-in-law] made tin 
carry out numerous missions as commander of his troops. Every hill tribe 
against "which I marched I vanquished, so that it was driven from the pasture 
of its wells. I plundered its cattle, carried off its families, seized their food, and 
killed people by my strong arm., by my bow, by my [tactical] movements and 
my skillful plans. (AEL 1:227) 

Sinuhe also provides us with the most detailed narrative description of the arms 
and combat methods of an unnamed Middle Bronze Canaanite warrior, with 
whom Sinuhe engages in single combat; "Easterner" is an Egyptian term for 
Canaanites, who lived to the north-east of Egypt. 

He [Sinuhe's Canaanite enemy] raised his battle-axe [tninb] and shield, win It 
his armful of javelins [nywy] flew toward me. When I made his [missile | 
weapons attack me, I let his arrows pass me by without effect, one followim- 
the other. Then, [when he was out of missiles], he charged me, and I shot 
him, my arrow sticking in his neck. He screamed and fell on Ins face; I slew 
him with his [own] axe. I gave my war cry, standing on Ins ba< k. vvhili 
Easterner [in my tribe | bellowed |in triumph | (Al I 

Complementing both the archaeological and artistic data discussed above 

inuhe's Canaanite enemy is armed with shield, axe, and multiple javelins. Th 

urior first engages in an exchange of missiles, after which he charges for a mele 

ith his axe. 

Another Egyptian warrior, Sebek-khu, described an undated campaign c 

Senwosretlll {1378-1843} against Palestine: 

[After the Nubian campaign] his majesty traveled downstream [northward] t< 
overthrow the Bedouin of Canaan. His majesty arrived at a foreign lane 
Shechem [skrnm] by name.. . . Then Shechem fell, together with the vil 
Retjenu [Canaanites], while I acted as the rearguard [for the army on it 
return march to Egypt], Then the soldiers joined in to fight with the East 
erners [who attacked the rear of the column]. Thereupon I [personally] cap 
tured an Easterner. Then I had his weapons seized by two soldiers. There wa 
no turning back from the fray, but my face was [always] to the fore [of th 
battle]. I did not show my back to the Easterner [in retreat]. (AI 120 = ARJ 
1 :304-5) 

I I ere we see an army from Egypt invading Canaan and sacking one of the city 
tates. As in the story of Abraham's war, other Canaanites wait until the Egyptian 
my is marching homeward, slowed down by plunder and women and childrei 
laves. The Canaanites then ambush the Egyptians, but, unlike Abraham, thei 
tttack is thwarted by Sebek-khu s firm defense. 

Like the Early Bronze Age, Middle Bronze Canaan was organized into abou 
two dozen major city-states, each ruled by its own independent king (melek), an< 
dominating the surrounding satellite agricultural villages. These city-states forme< 
various coalitions, with shifting patterns of dominance and submission punctuate* 
by warfare between rivals as well as battles with Syrian, Egyptian, and nomadr 
nernies. The names of most of these city-states, kings, and wars are lost to histor) 
None the less, a very broad pattern can be discerned through the Egyptian Exe 
M.iiion Texts, ritual magic designed to curse the enemies of Egypt. 21 Scholar 
p nerally think that the early Execration Texts (the Mirgissa and Berlin collections 
;< 1950} (CS 1:50—2) describe a different political situation in Canaan than thi 
I Hi 1 Execration Texts (Brussels collection) {c. 1800}. The earlier texts appear t< 
describe regions and tribes rather than towns. The later texts focus more on spe 
< if ic towns and individual rulers following more organized itineraries. This has Ie< 
1 holars to speculate that we are seeing a military transformation in these text 
horn domination of the region by semi-nomadic clans and their chiefs represent 
mi", the type of political situation in Middle Bronze I, to the world of Canaanih 
M states and kings of Middle Bronze II. This seems to confirm the evidence o 
,111 haeology concerning the domination of Canaan by nomads during Middh 
Hion/e I ami the restoration ol uib.ui life at the beginning ol Middle Bronze II 
li ii is 1 le.n is ( .in. 1. in is ,1 1 unl fragmented into numerous < .nui < it\ 
stairs, .nui 1I1 1 1I1 I I li ih. ii< < d to 1 in si- the lot of them: "then shonj 




men, their messengers, their confederates, their allies, the tribesmen in Canaan, 
who will rebel, who will plot, who will fight, who will say that they will fight, 
who will say that they will rebel in this entire land" (CS 1:52). Unfortunately, the 
texts amount to little more than a list of place, tribal and personal names, providing 
no specific information about alliances or ongoing feuds. None the less, we get .1 
quick glimpse at the complexity of Canaanite political order, with dozens of cities, 
kings, and tribal chiefs. 

Middle Bronze IIB Canaan {1750-1550} belongs to a new phase in ancient 
Near Eastern military history. This period was the most dynamic in ancient 
Canaanite military history, in which the introduction of the chariot, composite 
bow and metal armor from Anatolia and Syria (see Chapter Five) revolutionized 
warfare, both in Canaan and throughout the Near East. During this period 
Canaanites first emigrated into and later invaded the Egyptian delta, creating the 
most powerful Canaanite military confederation of the late Middle Bronze known 
to the Egyptians as the "foreign rulers" or Hyksos. 22 This will hopefully be tin- 
subject of a future study. 




For the purposes of this study I will use the term Anatolia to describe the regie 
(lore or less coterminous with the modern country of Turkey (into which Turl 
irst migrated in the eleventh century CE). Background on Neolithic Anatolia ca 
found on pp. 24-7. The following chart (Table 11. 1) 1 outlines the majc 
urhaeological and historical periods of ancient Anatolia. 

Chalcolithic Anatolia {5500-3000} 2 

1 >\erall the evidence for military activity in Chalcolithic Anatolia is certain' 

ketchy, but does fit a basically consistent pattern. The transition from the Nee 

i lik to the Chalcolithic period in Anatolia is not only defined by the appearanc 

il 1 opper casting of large objects, but also by the spread of militarism. The numbi 

nd size of settlements expands, as does trade and other forms of contact betwee 

1 uy-states. Competition develops between these small city-states, culminating i 

die building of increasingly sophisticated fortifications, along with an increasin 

frequency of arsenic-copper -weapons. A number of sites show evidence < 

lestruction in war, sometimes repeatedly. Cities that are destroyed in war ai 

Table 11.1 Simplified archaeological chronology of Anatolia 






Early Neolithic (Pre 
Late Neolithic 


1 1 ,000-6500 

I kilt olithic 





i u U Bronze 

Early Bronze I 
Early Bronze II 
Earl) Bronze MI 


Middle Bronze 

Middle Itmn/e 1 
Mi, Ml. limn/. II 

2000 1800 
1800 1(>00 

( )Id 1 lit tit < 

I 1 1 . linm 

I (,(!(> 1 '(in 

New 1 Inn 


rebuilt, generally with larger fortifications, indicating a perception of increasing 

A number of specific sites and finds point to spreading militarism. Fortification 
building expands, with the best-preserved Chalcolithic Anatolian fortress at Mer- 
sin, which was strongly fortified with a wall, gate, and glacis, dating from about 
4500. Storerooms near the gate had piles of sling stones ready for use by defenders 
of the walls, with quarters for a garrison. The fortress was destroyed in war in 
about 4300. 3 Arslantepe was another major site in southern Anatolia during the 
late Chalcolithic (EA 1:212—15). From 3300 to 3000 it seems to have been part of 
the Uruk expansion from Sumer, and may have been colonized in part by the 
Sumerians; twenty-one copper spears and daggers were found at this site. The city 7 
was violently destroyed in 3000 by a group from eastern Anatolia who rebuilt a 
fortified city on the ruins. A "warrior" burial at late Chalcolithic Korucutepe 
{3500-3000} included a copper dagger and a mace made of iron ore (ET 137). 
A royal tomb from about 2900 included metal weapons, with royal retainers 
buried alongside as human sacrifices. Thus, although a true military history of 
Chalcolithic Anatolia cannot be written, the evidence hints that Anatolia may 
have crossed the warfare threshold by the fifth millennium, and was possibly the 
first region in the world to do so. If so, military history can be said to begin in 

Early Bronze Age Anatolia {3000-2000} 4 

The Early Bronze Age was a period of significant change in Anatolia. As a major 
source of copper and silver for the Near East, Anatolian city-states became 
increasingly wealthy; the famous treasures of Troy are a striking example. 5 The 
lack of almost any military art or written records from the Early Bronze Age makes 
a detailed reconstruction of a specific military history impossible, but broad gen- 
eral trends are clear. All major Anatolian cities of the Early Bronze Age were 
strongly fortified, generally with high, thick, citadel-like stone walls. This, along 
with arsenic-copper and eventually bronze weapons, shows the perception of ser- 
ious military threat. 

By the middle of the Early Bronze Age a number of city-states had risen to 
positions of prominence in Anatolia, including Troy (Willusa; Hisarlik) (DANE 
302-3; CANE 2:1121-34) in the north-east and Beycesultan (DANE 51-2) in the 
south-east. Troy {level II, 2500—2300} was well fortified by a stone wall with brick 
superstructure, where sixteen rich treasure troves were found in Schliemann's 
famous excavations. Schliemann mistakenly identified this level of the city as 
Homer's Troy. Troy II was destroyed in war around 2300, perhaps by the invasion 
of the Luwians (see p. 289). Related Early Bronze fortresses were found at 
Poliochni on Lemnos and Emporio on Chios (Cl/2:374), fleshing out our 
understanding of fortifications of the period, which included narrow tower 
flanked gates and arrow slits (Cl/2:374). In some ways these fortresses should be 
conceived more as palace-fortress complexes designed lm tin- I irsuleiu e ot'.i 



dynasty ruling over a more rural population. The size and population of these sites 
tends to be limited, often measuring from 100 to 250 meters in diameter 
(Cl/2:387). In central Anatolia Hattusas (Bogazkoy) (EA 1:333-5) - destined later 
to become the capital of the Hittite empire - was a major city-state in the Early 
Bronze period, ruled by an ethnic group known as the Hattians. Other city-states 
which have been excavated include Alisar (Amkuwa), Zalpa, and Kanesh (Nesha; 
Kultepe) (EA 3:266-8) in south central Anatolia. Demirci Hoyuk is an Early 
Bronze fortress city built in a circle 70 meters in diameter. The wall is of mud 
brick with a stone foundation, defensive ditch, fortified gates, and projecting 
round towers (ET 164). Overall, Anatolian Early Bronze II {2700-2300} is char- 
acterized by opulent war-like dynasties ruling strongly fortified citadels. 

Weapons in Anatolia include the standard Early Bronze arsenal of dagger, 
spear, and axe, supplemented by stone maces (C 1/2:377— 8). One set of con- 
troversial artifacts, has sometimes been associated with this period. In 1 959 James 
Mellaart claims to have been shown the so-called "Dorak Treasure", a collection 
of weapons that were said to have been taken from a royal grave in northern 
Anatolia (DANE 94-5). The weapons included the standard axes, maces, and 
daggers, but also included iron weapons, and short swords about 60 cm long. 
Mellaart produced drawings of these weapons, but the actual weapons were nevei 
photographed, nor were they ever seen again. Although Mellaart claimed they 
were authentic, 6 most scholars now believe the artifacts either never existed or 
were forgeries which the forger was planning to sell, but eventually panicked and 
withdrew from the market. 

Early Bronze Age III {2300-2000} 

The Indo-European invasions {2 3 00-2 2 00} 7 

The twenty-third century witnessed widespread destruction in western and 
southern Anatolia. Three-quarters of the Early Bronze II sites were destroyed and 
abandoned (Cl/2:406— 10). Of those sites that survived, many were greatly 
reduced in size, and were inhabited by peoples with new types of pottery and 
other material culture. Although the lack and ambiguity of evidence makes cer- 
tainty impossible, many scholars associate this devastation with the migration of 
Indo-European peoples into Anatolia (KH 10—11). The designation "Indo- 
European" is a linguistic concept based on the fact that many languages spoken 
in India, Iran, Central Asia, and throughout most of Europe are all linguistically 
interrelated. It is assumed that all these languages developed from an archaic Proto- 
Indo-European language, and that the ancestors came from a single "homeland" 
generally placed north or east of the Black Sea in the fifth millennium. From there, 
the Indo-Europeans are thought to have migrated in all directions. In the ancient 
Near East Indo-European languages are found in Anatolia ami Iran. There arc 
two fundamental methodological problems relating to tin- stiuK oi these an hair 
Indo-European migrations solely from non written evident e I it.! 



language and ethnicity cannot be determined by material culture - that is to 
we cannot tell the language a person spoke by the type of pot or tool 
used. Second, language and material culture are not coterminous - people u 
the same type of pot or tool may speak different languages, while people sp( 
ing the same language may use different types of pots or tools (DANE 153; 

Thus, although it is clear that there was widespread warfare and devastatioi 
Anatolia in the twenty-third century, in the absence of written records we car 
determine with certainty the ethnicity of the peoples involved. 8 Here I will assi 
the theory that there was a major migration of Indo-European-speaking peo 
into Anatolia in the mid-to-late third millennium. Two possible routes c 
twenty-third-century Indo-European invasion are posited. One is from the 1 
kans into western Anatolia; this group is generally called the Luwians, assun 
they are the ancestors of the Luwian ethnic group inhabiting western Anatoli 
the Middle Bronze Age. Another possible route was over the Caucasus Mount 
into northern Anatolia, which may have been the path of migration for 
ancestors of the Hittites, who will be discussed on p. 292. From the vague < 
denee we have it appears that the Indo-Europeans were warlike, bronze-us 
cattle-breeding peoples formed into loose tribal confederations. 

From the military perspective, it is clear that there was widespi 
devastation in Anatolia in the late Early Bronze period, resulting in the dissolut 
of the old political and military order. When we begin to have the first wri 
records in Anatolia of the Middle Bronze Age, the names of the peoples of A 
tolia and the languages they speak are largely Indo-European, divided into tl 
•'.roups: the Luwians in the south and west, the Palaians in the north, and 
Nesites in the central area around the city-state of Nesha (Kanesh), of whom 
I littites were a part (KH 10-20). In addition, the Hurrians, a non-Indo-Europ 
ethnic group, appear to have originated in eastern Anatolia. They are first in 
uoned in the Akkadian period {2334-2190}, when they are seen migrai 
oiithward out of Anatolia into northern Mesopotamia and Syria, quite poss 
under military pressure from Indo-European migrants further to the north 
pp. 303-4). 

At roughly the same time that Indo-European tribesmen were devastai 
mini) of Anatolia, the southern regions of Anatolia bordering on Syria 
Mesopotamia faced invasion by the Akkadian empire. Late Mesopotamian tr; 
nous remember Sargon {2334—2279} defeating Nur-Dagan, the Anatolian kin: 
I'm nshanda. Later Naram-Sin {2254—2218} fought against a rebellions eoalit 
o| seventeen kings; the list of rebel kings included Zipani, king of Kanesh 
I'amba, king of Hatti, both Anatolian rulers (KH 9, 24 5). The nature of Akkai 
rule m south central Anatolia is unclear, but it appears that the Akkadians 
established some type ol hegemony over those regions probably <o insure a< 
to si! vet and othei metal tesmm es Hie overall result of I lie combination ol In 
[• initiation lluttiaii munalion, and Akkadian uulilai ran ■ i 
1 -ail hi n i military tfUirCIv '' > mm h<- I an- i Ini < I ii i ill> an linn i 


Though the Indo-European invaders devastated much of Anatolia, they did not 
completely destroy urban civilization. Though many sites were abandoned, other 
cities were burnt but rebuilt. The Indo-European-speaking peoples intermarried 
with local conquered peoples, and adopted many beliefs and practices from them, 
laying the foundation for the revival of large city-states and the rise of empire in 
the Middle Bronze period. Overall the basic pattern of scattered regional inde- 
pendent city-states continued. 

Middle Bronze Age Anatolia {2000-1600} 

By the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age a number of new city-states in central 
Anatolia were rising to importance, among them Nesha, Zalpa, Purushanda, 
Wahsusana (Nigde), Mama, and Kussara. Writing makes its first appearance in the 
form of an archive of Old Assyrian merchants at the city of Nesha. The key to the 
success of the new central Anatolian kingdoms was the two-way tin-silver trade 
with Mesopotamia, Anatolia was rich in silver and copper, but lacked tin, the key 
ingredient in bronze-making. The most reliable source of tin in that period was 
Afghanistan, Mesopotarnian merchants, whose homeland lacked copper, silver, 
and tin, acted as middle-men in the tin trade, creating a "Tin Road" stretching 
from Afghanistan to central Anatolia. Those kings who participated in the silver- 
tin trade were able to receive more tin at a cheaper price. They could thereby 
create more bronze weapons and equip larger and better-armed armies, giving 
them military predominance in the region. Initially the city of Nesha controlled 
this trade, making it the predominant power in central Anatolia. However, the 
city-state destined to transform the military history of Anatolia and the Near East 
was Hattusas, capital of the newly rising Hittites. 

Nesha (Kanesh) {2000-1750} 9 

The military history of Middle Bronze Anatolia is illuminated to some degree by 
the discovery of an Old Assyrian colonial archive at Nesha (Kanesh, modern 
Kultepe) in Anatolia. Although most of the 15,000 tablets from this archive are 
legal and commercial, there are a number of important military implications of this 
remarkable colony. In the wake of the collapse of the Ur III political order in 
Mesopotamia, merchants from the newly independent Assyria gained control of 
the rich tin trade to Anatolia, founding a merchant colony at Nesha which flour- 
ished from roughly 2000 to 1750. Twenty-one Assyrian merchant settlements are 
mentioned in the texts. Some, known as karum v were large trading colonies, while 
others, the wabartum, were apparently military garrisons assigned to secure the 
trade routes. These Assyrian colonies did not represent an actual military conquest 
by armies from Assyria, but a network of alliances and power-sharing with local 
Anatolian city-states, who benefited greatly by being the recipients of the Assyrian 
tin trade. The system was perhaps broadly analogous to the early luiropcan coin 
nies in south Asia in the sixteenth ami seventeenth centuries 



, Wrian merchants traded tin (ultimately transshipped from Afghanista 

Assyrian and Babylonian textiles for the gold and silver of Anatolia. The tta, 

Undertaken by donkey caravans, taking three months for the journey fro 

, to Ashur Over the fifty years described by the archive, 80 tons of tin * 

rted to Anatolia, enough to make 800 tons of bronze (KH 27); certainly n 

,, this was devoted to bronze weapon making, but the large quantity ol t 

orts permitted the development of true bronze-armed armies. It is a Ion 

King principle of military history that, where merchants travel, armies ; 

m Illy able to follow As we shall see, Hittite armies would eventually mar 

,1ns "Tin Road" opened by Assyrian merchants and their caravans, culn 

iiu in the sack of Babylon in 1595. 

i he city of Nesha {level II, 1920-1850} was strongly fortified with a wall 2 

.meters long, one of "the largest in the Near East" at that time (EA 3:26 

Assyrian colonies nourished during the period covering the reign of Ensht 

,| ol Assyria through his great-grandson Puzur-Ashur II, but was destroyed arou 

(, by the rival Uhna, king of the city-state of Zalpuwa (Zalpa) to the nor 

, may have been assisted by allies from Hattusas (CS 1:183a; KH 34). Alter tl 

, ity was abandoned by the Assyrians for a number of decade^ 

fhe merchant colony was re-established {level lb, 1810-1750} during I 

n of Shamshi-Adad {1813-1781}; the control of this tin and textile trade 

Itolia may have provided an important supply of gold and silver which heir 

.mshi-Adad in his remarkable conquests (see pp. 168-71). A few of the mil* 

ities of the kingdom of Nesha can be reconstructed from hints m the Assyr 

n bant letters (KH 34-9). There were two kings of Nesha at this time wb 

imC s we know: Inar {c. 1810-1790} and his son Warsanra {c. 1790-1775 , 

„ (nar established predominance in the region, making a number ^of rulers 

ds, and besieging the city of Harsamma for nine years (KH 36). Tnerea 

irsama had tense relations with a rival king, Anum-hirbi of Mama, who 

himself as Warsama's equal: both are described as "kings' who ruled over dog, 

th, ii vassals (KH 35). These vassal kings would often raid each others lands 

ltdc and other plunder. One such occasion caused Anum-hirbi to complan 

, sama of Nesha that one of Warsama's vassals had perfidiously attacked Anum-t 

* hile he was engaged in warfare on another front: 

When my enemy [invaded my country and] conquered me, the Man |v 
kind of |the city of] Taisama invaded my country and destroyed twelve ol 
towns and earned away their cattle and sheep . . - Did my people invade j 
land |as provocation for this attack], and did they kill a single [oi your] o 
sheep? (KM 35 6) 

IV ki.irs neeolutrd ami agreed to "take an oath" of peace in onle, 
Vio.unia du- ail nnpnn.rn.nn and doth ir.uic from Asslun (Kll •■ 

llln , tlu-H-ath-,, W.n, u.r. ..wiihmun k at, mvasmn h ilu- kme ul u 

iht- hmnrland <>l ill- I t'"" 1 '■ 


The early Hittites {2300-1600} n 

Origin of the Hittites {2300-1900} 

The basin of the Halys River (Kizil Irmak) in north-central Anatoli, 
to the ancients as Hatti-land, from the name of the early non-Ind.. I 
inhabitants, the Hattians (M = CAM 139). The Haitians, although the) • 
name to the land and later empire of the Hittites, were not, in fact, the 
ancestors of the Hittites. Rather, sometime around 2300, Indo-Europi 
men migrated into the Halys River basin, settling among and eventual , ■ 
dominate, intermarry with and eventually assimilate the local non-Indo I 
Hattian peoples. In the process the new invaders adopted the name "the \m ■ 
the land of Hatti", or Hittites (KH 16-20). 

The most important kingdom of north-central Anatolia in Early Bron 
not the eventual Hittite capital of Hattusas, but the nearby city-state < 
Hoyuk (DANE 9-10), which flourished in the last centuries of the thud i 
nium {2300-2100}. The royal dynasty of the city was buried in thirti 
graves containing splendid treasure and numerous weapons. Finds at Ala< i 
include standards with bulls, stags, and lions; these were possibly religious, bin 
have been military clan or regimental standards (AH 2, 17-23, §1-12). 
scholars view Alaca Hoyuk, and related sites such as Horoztepe and Mahnutl 
Indo-European centers of power which had newly come to dominate ih 
(KH 12). 

The conquests ofPithana and Anitta 
{1775-1750} (KH 36-43) 

The original homeland of the Hittite royal dynasty, however, was Kussara, a nt\ 
the south-east of their later capital at Hattusas. Our major source for this p, i , 
the Anitta inscription (CS 1:182-4; MHT 24-7), describes the rise to pour, , 
Pithana {c. 1790-1770}, king of Kussara, and his son Anitta {c. 1770 I ,i 
rough contemporaries of Shamshi-Adad of Assyria and Hammurabi of B.ilnU 
(KH 36-43). Kussara, the Hittite ancestral home, was a city to the south-east of 
Nesha on the Tin Road to Ashur. Around the year 1775, probably in an attemp 
to gain more control of the tin trade, Pithana . . . 

the king of Kussara came down out of the city [of Kussar| with large muni 
[of soldiers] and took Nesha during the night by storm. He raptured tin 
king of Nesha [Warsama] but did no harm to any of the citizens oi Nesl, , 
He treated them [with mercy as if they were his| mothers and fathct 
(CS 1:182) 

By protecting the city and the Assyrian merchant class, Pith.m.i guaranteed (h,i 
the valuable tin trade would continue unabated. Inn with tin- pmhts m his hand 

,,, , 


moved his capital to Nesha, where his son Anitta built a great palac 
I in An inscription on a dagger (MHT 22). 

Pithana died a few years later {c. 1770} while still in the process < 

in g his new conquests, a revolt broke out in a number of his vassal citi 

son Anitta ruthlessly crushed. The major rebel cities were "devoted" t 

god, and were left completely desolate and depopulated, with a cur: 

mi anyone who would rebuild them (CS 1:183a). Thereafter Anit 

himself to transforming his kingdom into an empire. His first campais 

ud against the alliance of Zalpuwa and Hattusas in the basin of tr 

ni.ik river, which had earlier sacked Nesha around 1850. It appears th 

i victorious, making "the sea of Zalpuwa [Black Sea] my boundary [t 

rth)" (CS 183a) {c. 1765?}. 

not a decisive victory, however, for Huzziya king of Zalpuwa, an 

I mg of Hattusas, remained on their thrones as Anitta's vassals, and quick' 

I against him. Anitta marched north again and met the army of Piyushti < 

ii nl his vassals, forcing them to flee into Hattusas and fortify it for a sieg 

i was captured and sacked, after which Anitta blockaded Hattusas. u Sul 

ntly, when [Hattusas] became most acutely beset with famine, the godde 

i nit gave it over to me, and I took it at night by storm." Anitta s reveng 

i i ins rebel vassal was again ruthless; Hattusas was sacked and sown wit 

and perpetually cursed: "Whoever after me becomes king and resetti 

i let the Stormgod of the Sky strike him!" (CS 1:183b). Ironically, the cil 

entually become capital of the Hittite empire. 

[Hi the north secure, Anitta turned westward against Salatiwara, whose am 

\uitta in the field and was defeated and made vassal; he celebrated his triump 

i great hunt of wild boar, lions, and leopards (CS 1:183—4). With the plund< 

i his campaigns Anitta naturally dedicated wealth to the gods and built gre 

i it Ins capital of Nesha. He also strongly fortified the city, which bet. in 

Oi the great fortresses of the age (EA 3:266). Anitta's triumph was short live. 

ii a revolted and marshaled his army on the Hulanna River. Anitta evadt 

army, and "came around behind him [the king of Salatiwara | and |captnrt 

i lire to his city." Seeing their city in flames, the army of the king of Sa! 

i apparently escaped with "1400 infantry and 40 teams of horses |fm < h.i 

| ii nl |his| silver and gold" (MHT 27). This incidental reference gives ns tl 

i ing figure of 1400 men and forty chariots as the potential size of an anus 

. Middle Bronze Age Anatolian city-state, or about thirty-five infantrymen p 

luriot; it further implies that chariot warfare was a part of the Anatolian niiln.i 

in in the mill eighteenth century, an issue that was discussed in Chaptci hv 

Where did the king of Salatiwara go? Anitta does not say, hut it is possible th 

lli d in Ins ,il!v the king ol Purnshauda, a west central Anatolian < it y state ne 

I ike In/, since Annus nest campaign was .\i) attack against thai kin;', I he king 

I'utushanda however. i]iii< kl\ sent tokens of submission and vassalage an "in 

tin one and s( rptei " to Anitta Ion I all me a m.ijoi ( ontrontation (( 'S I 1 S Ihi I 

I < -f hi i i ii in ill of i en li al \natoha 



A period of anarchy {1750-1670} (KH 64-65) 

Anitta's empire was not to last, however; around the time of his death {c. 1750?} 
his erstwhile vassals unanimously rose in successful rebellion. Nesha was destroyed 
by fire around the time of Anitta's death, and his empire collapsed, with the poli- 
tical order of Anatolia returning to feuding city-states. The last of the Assyrian 
merchant letters bemoan the toll taken on their trade by the unsettled conditions 
in Anatolia (KH 42), and at some point the tin trade ceased, adding economic 
problems to political anarchy. Hurrian peoples migrated into the south-eastern 
fringes of central Anatolia, while the warlike Kaska mountain tribesmen, who 
would later repeatedly raid and invade the Hittite empire, make their first 
appearance on the north-eastern frontier; the Luwians dominated the south-west. 
The gap of about 80 years between the death of Anitta and the rise of Labarna is 
essentially a blank in terms of specific military history. It seems, however, that 
during this period Anitta's dynasty lost control over its original city-state of Kus- 
sara, which passed into the hands of either a collateral branch of the royal family or 
a rival Hittite clan whose dynasty would found the Hittite empire. Kussara 
remained one of many petty city-states in central Anatolia until the reign of 
Labarna, the founder of the Hittite empire. 

Labarna (Tabama) {c. U70-1650} 12 

When Labarna came to the throne, he was only the ruler of the city-state of 
Kussara, whose "land was smalT\ During the course of his reign, Labarna claimed 
to have conquered seven rival city-states south of the Halys (JVlarrassantiya) river to 
the Mediterranean Sea, establishing his sons as kings in these cities (CS 1:194a). It 
appears that he also campaigned to the north-east of Kussara, capturing the city- 
state of Sanahuitta, w r here he also installed one of his sons as king. As he neared his 
death Labarna attempted to secure the succession to his throne for a son, also 
called Labarna, who was governor of Sanahuitta. However, a large faction at court 
supported a rival son, Papahdilmah, who seized the throne in a coup (CS 2:81a; 
KH 70-1). The details of the factional fighting or even civil war are not known, 
but it appears the state was split in two, with one faction ruling from Sanahuitta 
and the other ruling Kussara and the southern domains. This was the political 
situation at the succession of Hattusilis I, said to be the grandson of the first 

Hattusilis I {c. 1650-1620Y 3 

Hattusilis described himself as "son of the brother of [the] Tawananna [Queen 
Mother]" (KH 73). 14 He also implied that he was the grandson of Labarna. The 
exact genealogical relationship of the Hittite royal family at this time is muddled 
(MHT 57). In the Wars of the Roses-style political crisis following the coup 
attempt by Papahdilmah, Hattusilis somehow became the prime < .mdidate l<n one 

branch of the family, and ascended to the throne at Kussara, while a rival branch 
the family under Papahdilmah (or his successor) ruled at Sanahuitta. 

The military historian is fortunate to have two fairly detailed records from i 
court of Hattusilis — his Annals and his Testament — though, as is not unusual w 
ancient Near Eastern historical documents, they often create more questions tr 
they answer. Early in his reign, perhaps in his first year, Hattusilis moved his cap 
from the traditional Hittite homeland in Kussara to the ancient ruined city 
Hattusas (Bogazkoy), which had been destroyed and ritually cursed by Anitt 
century earlier (KH 73). This city was to become the imperial capital of the E 
tites for the next four centuries, and would eventually become one of the gr 
cities of the ancient Near East, whose ruins still awe visitors today. 15 Hattus 
.ipparently took his throne-name at this time from the name of the city he rm 
his new capital. The "land of the Hatti", from which is derived the dynastic nai 
of the Hittites, occupied the region around the city of Hattusas. It is not cert 
why Hattusilis moved his capital It may have been initially planned as a tempor; 
move to be closer to the rival dynasty at Sanahuitta; on the other hand, his o 1 
hold on the throne was probably still dubious, and he may have moved to esa 
from the powerbase of rival political factions at the old capital of Kussara. 

The first order of business upon his enthronement was to deal with the ri 
I littite faction to the north. 

He [Hattusilis] marched against Sanahuitta. He did not destroy it, but its la 
he did destroy. I left my troops in two places as a garrison. I gave whate 1 
sheep folds were there to my garrison troops. (MHT 50) 

Although unable to conquer his rival at Sanahuitta, Hattusilis plundered the t> 
i itory, leaving the city blockaded by two garrisons and hoping to starve it it 

uhimssion. His reason for not undertaking a more rigorous siege of the city v 

ipparently a threat from the king of Zalpuwa (Zalpa) to the north, the rival oft 
nlier proto-Hittite king Anitta. Hattusilis destroyed and plundered Zalpu\ 
taking the statues of its gods and three divine chariots captive to his royal temple 
ins new capital of Hattusas (MHT 50-1). 

With the north secure, Hattusilis turned his attention to Syria - the first-kno^ 
nine a major Anatolia military power intervened outside Anatolia. At this peri 
northern Syria was ruled by the powerful kingdom of Aleppo (Yamkhad, I lal; 

I e pp. 257-60). No reason is given by Hattusilis for his invasion of Syria, a 
perhaps none was needed. It may be, however, that Aleppo had been allied 
i Littusilis' rivals for the Hittite throne, or to another of his enemies. On the oil 
hand, he may have simply needed a new source of plunder to keep his soldiers a 
supporters satisfied. Whatever the motivation, the Syrian war would inaugurati 
half < entury <>f I littite military adventurism in Syria which would culminate in I 
sack ol Aleppo (c. If>()(l| ami Babylon | I 5 ( )5 J by I iattusilis' grandson Mini 

\i his point, howevet, Mniuiii immediate goal was more modest lie sack 
mi. n| Aleppo's \l i! ,1 I) I, II \i,; I A I ^ '' I >WI III I i |, i 


a precious cache of cuneiform tablets in the ruins (AT) — and plundered the sur- 
rounding countryside (MHT 51; KH 75-7). 

Hattusilis' third campaign was against Arzawa, the land of the Luwians in south- 
western Anatolia. There, as he was plundering the countryside, he received 
shocking news. The king of the Hurrians, an ally of Aleppo which Hattusilis had 
attacked the previous year, had invaded central Anatolia from the south-east. 
Hittite vassal city-states in that region, whose loyalty was nominal at best, seized 
the opportunity to rise in rebellion, and most of the region south of the Halys 
river was swiftly lost. Hattusilis retired at speed to his capital of Hattusas, where he 
regrouped and launched a counter-attack against the rebel cities (MHT 51). 

The Sun Goddess of Arinna put me in her lap and took me by the hand and 
went before me in battle. And I marched in battle against Ninassa [which had 
rebelled], and when the men of Ninassa saw me before them, they opened the 
gate of the city [and surrendered without a fight]. (MHT 51) 

He subsequently attacked the cities of Ulma (Ullarnma) and Sallahsuwa: 

Thereupon I marched in battle against the Land of Ulma, and the men of 
Ulma came twice in battle against me, and twice I overthrew them. And I 
destroyed the Land of Ulma and sowed weeds [as a ritual symbol of a divine 
curse]. I brought the [statues of the] seven gods [of Ulma as symbolic prison- 
ers] to the temple of the Sun Goddess of Arinna. ... I marched against the 
Land of Sallahsuwa . . . and on its own it delivered itself by fire. (MHT 51-2) 

The act of the city of Sallahsuwa "delivering itself by fire" apparently has 
reference to burning the city gates as an act of submission, thereby rendering the 
city indefensible (HW2 67). 

By this swift response Hattusilis prevented the complete collapse of his king- 
dom, but his situation was still far from fully stabilized. His dynastic rival still 
controlled the city of Sanahuitta, which Hattusilis had blockaded four years earlier. 
He now undertook a full-scale six-month siege at the end of which he finally 
sacked the city, removing his potential rival as a possible focus for rebellion. 
Thereafter a number of cities submitted, and the few that still resisted were ruth- 
lessly sacked and destroyed (MHT 52-3; KH 81-2). 

With internal stability restored in Anatolia, Hattusilis undertook a second 
campaign against northern Syria, in which he crushed the army of the coalition of 
Aleppo in open battle. With the field army defeated, Hattusilis was able to con- 
quer a number of cities in the region. 

In the following year I marched against Zaruna and destroyed Zaruna. And I 
marched against Hassuwa and the men of Hassuwa came against me in battle. 
They were assisted by [their allies, the| troops from Aleppo. They came 
against me in battle and I overthrew them. Wiihin .i few d.ivs I crossed the 


river Puruna and I overcame [the city of] Hassuwa like a lion with its eta 
And when I overthrew it I heaped dust upon it [in a ritual burial mound] i 
took possession of all its property and filled Hattusas with it. I entered [ 
city of] Zippasna, and I ascended [the walls of] Zippasna [by stratagem] in 
dead of night. I entered into battle with them and heaped dust upon them. 
I took possession of [the statues of] its gods and brought them to the temple 
the Sun Goddess of Arinna. And I marched against Hahha and three tir 
made battle within the gates. I destroyed Hahha and took possession of 
property and carried it off to Hattusa. Two pairs of transport wagons w 
loaded with silver [from the plunder of the victories]. (MHT 52-4; KH 82- 

Hattusilis' force then briefly raided crossed the Euphrates, allowing him 
boast that he had surpassed the military achievements of Sargon of Akkad, vv 
had crossed the Euphrates from the other direction, and whose martial fame ^ 
still pre-eminent 600 years after his death. 

No one had crossed the Euphrates River [with an army], but I, the Gr 
King Tabarna [i.e. Hattusilis], crossed it on foot, and my army crossed it 
foot. Sargon also crossed it [600 years ago], but although he overthrew i 
troops of Hahha, he did nothing to Hahha itself and did not burn it dov 
nor did he offer the smoke [of the burning city as a sacrifice] to the Sto 
God of Heaven. (MHT 55; KH 84) 

Hattusilis' army made no attempt at permanent occupation of Syria at t 
point, but, rich with plunder (MHT 54—5), withdrew back into Anatolian Hiti 
territory. Although he had devastated part of the kingdom of Aleppo, and defeai 
i heir army in battle, he had not decisively defeated them nor taken their stron 
lortified capital. Unfortunately his detailed Annals end at this point and we arc 
with only vague references to later campaigns against both Arzawa and Alep 
(KH 88-9). A later document, the "Alaksandu Treaty", possibly alludes to i 
subjugation of Arzawa late in Hattusilis' reign (MHT 89), but stalemate seems 
have ensued on the Syrian frontier. Overall, Hattusilis' victories established i 
I littites as the pre-eminent power in Anatolia, and one of the leading empires in i 
Near East, allowing Hattusilis to claim the title of "Great King" (MHT 100, 10 

Part of the reason for Hattusilis' failure to fully capitalize on his initial victoi 
in Syria may have been factional feuding among his potential heirs, as described 
Ins deathbed Testament (CS 2:79-81; MHT 100-7; KH 89-99). As the old ki 
began to age, lie lost control of his kingdom: 

Hach of his sons went to |rule| .i |conqnered| country; the great cities w 
assigned to them. I .iter on, however, the servants ol the pi m< es |ihe sons 
1 Li! t i isi 1 is I bee. line rebellious, thev began to devour then [the prim i 
houses; thev took id i (Mispn uie . iMidnu.illv .ig.imsi then lords, and the\ bej 

to shed then |]oid ! i ..I ( S 1 I'M 


One son, Huzziya, who had been made governor of Tappassanda, unsuccess- 
fully rebelled against Hattusilis and tried to seize the throne (CS 2:80). A daughter 
in the capital Hattusas plotted with some of the nobility of that city to overthrow 
her father and place her son on the throne. She seems to have been tem- 
porarily successful, massacring her opponents in the capital, but was eventually 
overthrown and banished (CS 2:81). Another son, Labarna, plotted with his 
mother — "that snake", as Hattusilis describes her — to murder the king and seize 
the throne. Considering Hattusilis' record of devastation and massacre against 
his enemies, it is with no apparent irony that he criticises his son: "He showed no 
mercy. He was cold. He was heartless." Labarna's plot was exposed and he too was 
banished (CS 2:79-80). Despite these plots and rebellions, Hattusilis is never said 
to have ordered any of his children to be executed; banishment was the usual 

This type of dynastic instability, presumably occurring when the Great King 
was either away from the capital on campaign, or mentally or physically debilitated 
with age, seriously undermined the military potential of the Hittites by regularly 
requiring the king to abandon a campaign and rush back to the capital to secure 
the throne. It would be a problem that would plague the dynasty throughout its 
history. Hattusilis finally called an assembly of all the "army and dignitaries" of the 
kingdom and formally adopted his grandson Mursilis as his heir: "In the place of 
the lion [Hattusilis] the god will establish only another lion [Mursilis]" (CS 2:80a). 
At the time, Mursilis was still a young man, and was placed under the regency of 
Pimpira, a minister, for three years (CS 2:80a; KH 101). 

Hittite siegecmft: the siege of Ursha 
(Warsuwa) {1620s?} 16 

Although the precise date is unclear, at some point in Hattusilis' reign he under- 
took a major siege of the city of Ursha in northern Syria (MHT 65—6; SHP 76—7). 
It may have been during his second Syrian campaign, or in one of his later 
unrecorded campaigns. When an enemy army invaded, some cities preferred to 
meet the enemy in open battle rather than having their countryside ravaged while 
they retreated into their main fortified city (HW2 66-7; CS 1:183b). Other cities, 
seeing no hope of victory, would simply submit without a fight and become vassals 
(CS 1:184b). 

The city of Ursha decided to resist. It was apparently a vassal of a Hurrian king 
(KH 78; SHP 76), but was also in alliance with the king of Aleppo, both of whom 
provided support during the siege. When a siege began, the besieger would build a 
fortified and entrenched camp near the city (HW2 67). Thereafter a siege ramp 
was constructed, providing access to the upper walls for battering rams and siege 
towers (HW2 67—8). A later literary account describes some of the events sur- 
rounding the siege of Ursha, giving us insight into the nature of Middle Bronze 
siegecraft. The first part of the text is lost, and the account begins in the middle oi 
the siege: 



The [defenders of Ursha] broke the [Hittite] battering ram. The king [Hi 
tusilis] was angry and his face was grim: "They constantly bring me bad nev 
may the Weather-god carry you away in a flood! Be not idle! Make a [ne 1 
battering-ram in the Hurrian manner and let it be brought into place. Mak< 
'mountain' [siege-ramp] and let it also be set in its place. Hew a great batterin 
ram from the [large trees in the] mountains of Hassu and let it be brought in 
place. Begin to heap up earth [into an assault ramp]. When you have finish 
let everyone take post. Only let the enemy give battle, then his plans will 
confounded." (GH 148) 

It is not clear why the first battering ram broke; it could have been destroyed 
a sortie from Ursha, but it seems that it was poorly made out of inferior materia 

I lattusilis therefore ordered a new ram constructed "in the Hurrian mannei 
implying that Hurrian and Mesopotamian siege technology was superior to that 
the Hittites at that time. He also ordered the new battering-ram to be made fro 

I I ecs from the "mountains of Hassu", implying that the local trees were too sm 
.ii id the wood too soft to make a sturdy enough ram. There is a lacuna in the te: 
with some missing events, in which a Hittite ally or vassal named Iriyaya app<' 

'illy failed to bring promised reinforcements. Hattusilis then complained: 

Would anyone have thought that Iriyaya would have come and lied sayir 
"We will bring a tower and a battering-ram" - but they bring neither a tow 
nor a battering-ram, but he brings them to another place. Seize him and s 
to him: "You are deceiving us and so we deceive the king." (GH 148) 

I his combination of siege-ramp, tower, and battering-ram was the standard sie 

equipment for the Middle Bronze Age. Following another lacuna, in which t 

n -,(■ did not progress well, Hattusilis again berated his officers for their failures: 

"Why have you not given battle? You stand on chariots of water, you a 
almost turned into water yourself. . . You had only to kneel before him |i 
enemy king in Urshu] and you would have killed him or at least frighten 
him. But as it is you have behaved like a woman." . . . Thus they [the km 
officers] answered him: "Eight times we will give battle. We will con Ton i 
their [defensive] schemes and destroy the city." The king answered, Li ( loot! 
(GH 148) 

I >cspite these assurances, the siege still dragged on interminably. In the me.i 
tune, the 1 I it tiro army had not fully blockaded Ursha and the agents ol alii 
kings and presumably reinforcements and supplies were continually entcrn 
the i nv under the eyes oi the 1 Intite army. 

hul while thc\ » in I iioihmr to the i it v. m.inv o! the" srtv.mis w < 
wounded so inn I h< \ inn w .is ani'.eied and saul "W.ittll t 



roads. Observe who enters the city and who leaves the city. No one is to go 
out from the city to the enemy." . . . They answered: "We watch. Eighty 
chariots and eight armies [one army for each gate?] surround the city. Let not 
the king's heart be troubled. I remain at my post." But a fugitive [enemy 
deserter] came out of the city and reported: "The subject of the king of 
Aleppo came in [to Ursha] five times, the subject of [the city-state of] Zuppa 
is dwelling in the city itself, the men of Zaruar go in and out, the subject of 
my lord the Son of [the Hurrian war-god] Teshub [the Hurrian king, overlord 
of Usha] goes to and fro." . . . The king [Hattusilis] was furious. (GH 148-9) 

The text ends here, but there is no evidence that Hattusilis was successful in the 
siege. The use of eighty chariots, ten for each of eight companies, to patrol the 
entrances to Ursha emphasizes that, although the Hittites seem to have inferior 
siegecraft at this time, they are none the less at the forefront of chariot warfare. 

The weakness of Hittite siegecraft in this early period is reiterated by an 
examination of the overall ineffectiveness of their sieges (HW2 67—9). The siege of 
Harsamma by king Inar of Nesha lasted for nine years (KH 36); Sanahuitta was 
blockaded for four years, after which it was actively besieged for six months (MHT 
52); Zalpa was besieged for two years (CS 1:182b). On the other hand, cities could 
fall quickly to a surprise assault, sometimes at night (CS 182-3). In comparison, 
sieges in the Mari documents often proceed relatively rapidly (see Chapter Eight) . 

Mursilis I {c. 1620-1590} (KH 101-5; SHP 80-3) 

Militarily, Mursilis was one of the most successful kings of the Middle Bronze period. 
Unfortunately, our records for his reign are few and short. None the less, the basic 
outline of his campaigns can be determined. His succession to the throne seems to 
have been a last-minute decision by his grandfather, Hattusilis, in response to the 
plots and intrigues of his children (CS 2:79-81). Mursilis' father had been killed in 
Hattusilis' wars against Aleppo (KH 102), leaving Mursilis a minor upon his suc- 
cession to the throne; he ruled for three years under the tutelage of a regent (CS 
2:80a). Presumably the political instability plaguing the Hittite royal family con- 
tinued in the first years of Mursilis' reign, but, if so, no records of such disturbances 
have been preserved. Rather, later historical recollection idealizes Mursilis' rule: 

When Mursilis was King in Hattusas, his sons, his brothers, his in-laws, his 
extended family members and his troops were united. They held enemy 
country he subdued by his might, he stripped the [enemy] lands of their 
power and extended his borders to the sea. (CS 1:195a) 

The emphasis on "subduing" and "stripping" enemy lands "to the sea" may 
imply that the vassal states of Anatolia rebelled at the death of 1 lattusilis, requiring 
military campaigns to bring them back into submission, extending I litutc borders 
back to both the Mediterranean and lilac k Seas 



Upon subduing any last rivals for the throne and restoring order in Anatolia 
Mursilis, by now probably in his twenties, turned his attention to the unfinishe( 
conquest of Syria, which had been begun by his grandfather and father. 

Mursilis set out against Aleppo to avenge his father's blood [who had earlie 
been killed in a war with Aleppo]. Hattusilis had assigned Aleppo to his soi 
[Mursilis' father] to deal with. And to him [Mursilis] the king of Aleppo mad 
atonement. (KH 102) 

This laconic text leaves many questions unanswered, but it appears that in hi 

old age Hattusilis had ordered his unnamed son - Mursilis' father - to continue th< 

■ ars against Aleppo. While on one of these campaigns Mursilis' father was killec 

in battle, and, as a dutiful son, Mursilis invaded Syria on the pretext o 

avenging the death of his father. In the coming campaigns the king of Aleppo 

hose kingdom had been devastated during Hattusilis' wars, finally agreed t( 

ecome the vassal of Mursilis, thereby "making atonement" for the deatl 

• I Mursilis' father. This state of vassalage did not last, however. Presumably a 

nme point the king of Aleppo rebelled against Mursilis, requiring a new campaigt 

to punish the rebellious vassal, probably around 1600, which is only brief! 1 

described in Hittite records: "Mursilis went to the city of Aleppo, destroyet 

Mrppo, and brought Aleppo's deportees [as slaves] and its goods [as plunder] t( 

I httusas" (CS 1:195a). 

With all of Syria subdued, Mursilis faced two enemies to the west: the Hurrian 
hi northern Mesopotamia and the Babylonians in central and southen 
Mesopotamia. Again the details are scanty, but in 1595 Mursilis marched t( 

I I abylon, and destroyed and sacked the city. On his return march he was apparently 
1 1 1. u ked by the Hurrians, but defeated them as well: "Now, later, he went t( 
Uabylon, he destroyed Babylon and fought the Hurrian troops. Babylon 1 
deportees and its goods he kept in Hattusas" (CS 1:195a; MHT 143-5). Meso 
potamian records confirm the fall of Babylon: "In the time of Samsuditan 
(king of Babylon], the Man of Hatti marched against Akkad [i.e. Babylon]' 
(MHT 143). 

The capture of Babylon by Mursilis was the most audacious military achieve 
Blent of the Middle Bronze Age. Given the relative technological and logistic. i 
I apacities of Middle Bronze armies, Mursilis' victory probably appeared to con 
temporaries rather like Alexander's conquests 1300 years later. On the other hand 
tin- long term impact of Mursilis' conquest of Babylon was ephemeral, for he wa 
uulcrcd by his brother-in-law, Handlis, in a palace coup shortly after rcturnini 
(< i I lattusas in triumph. 

Now 1 lantilis was cupbearer |to king Mursilis] and he had Mursilis' siste 
I l.n.ipsilis (oi his wife /id. mi. i had the daughtci ol 1 lantilis (oi a witc, and h 
plotted with I lantilis in. I ilu\ i nmmittcd an evil di-rd they killed Mui.ili 
and 'died his hinnd (( S I I'J ... Mil I 1 IS) 



Although his sister Harapsilis was able to seize his throne after this murder, the 
Hittite state collapsed into quasi-anarchy with several successive coups; the Hittite 
records claim the gods abandoned these wicked Hittite kings, and "wherever their 
troops went on campaign they did not come back successfully" (CS 1:196a; KM 
101—30). By the time that Hittite stability and military power were restored in the 
fifteenth century, the political situation in Syria had changed dramatically The Kassite 
dynasty in Mesopotamia (DANE 164-5; EA 3:271-5) and the Hurrians of Mitanni 
in Syria (see pp. 303-7) became the real benefactors of early Hittite imperialism. 

Hittite military ideology 

The Middle Bronze Hittite records present a consistent pattern of military ideol- 
ogy. The Hittite king was chosen by the gods to rule the land of Hatti and subdue 
all enemies (KH 87—8; HW2 71-2). He was successful in battle when he properly 
served the gods, and was "beloved of the gods" (MHT 24, 51), but failed in battle 
when the gods turned against him for his sins (CS 1:195-6). Victories were won 
"with the help of the Sun God" (MHT 25). Hattusilis, the "Great King", was the 
"beloved of the Sun Goddess of Arinna"; "she put me [in her lap as her son] and 
took me [by the hand] and went before me in battle, granting victory" (MH 51). 
Hittite kings might also attack under direct oracular instructions from the gods, 
presumably pronounced by temple prophets. One oracle read: "the Sun goddess is 
sitting [on her throne in the temple] and sends out [her] messengers [the prophets 
to the king, saying]: 'Go to [attack] Aleppo!' " (CS 1:185a). Cities that resisted the 
Hittite king were resisting the gods; rebellion was tantamount to apostasy and 
resulted in complete devastation of a city, often with a ritual curse forbidding its 
future rebuilding (MHT 26; CS 1:183). This curse was symbolized by sowing the 
land with weeds (MHT 26), or covering the ruins with dust (MHT 53-4). 17 

In return for military victory, Hittite kings shared their plunder with the gods, 
just as they would with any other military ally: "I delivered [the plunder] up to the 
Storm God of Heaven" (MHT 25). The "deeds" of warfare and destruction are 
themselves "offerings" to the gods (MHT 52—3); the rising smoke of a sacked and 
burning city ascends to heaven like the smoke of a burnt offering on an altar 
(MHT 55). New temples were built by slave labor captured in war and from the 
plundered wealth: "whatever possession I brought home from the field [of battle | 1 
thereby supplied [to the temples of the gods]" (MHT 27, 50—5). Part of the 
plunder dedicated to the gods included the images of the gods of conquered cities, 
which were taken captive and brought to serve the gods of the Hittites in their 
temples, symbolized by setting up the captured statues in subservient places in the 
Hittite temples (MHT 26, 51-2, 54), 

Early Hittite military system ] H 

While Late Bronze {1600-1200} artistic and textual soiiucn foi Hittite militan 
history are quite rich, for the Middle Brnn/e penml mn <-t i.ils ate still ratlin 


inty. While most Hittite soldiers were infantry (HW2 55-7), chariots none the les 

■m) to make an appearance in both art and texts. Middle Bronze Hittite infantr 

K depicted with the standard Near Eastern weapons: mace (AH §20), javelin, ax. 

\l I §35c-d, §44; WV §29), and thrusting spear (FI §737). Some warriors ar 

Im iwn with helmets and shields (FI §737). From the few examples where number 

soldiers are recorded, Hittite armies seemed to have numbered in the lov 

lousands: numbers mentioned include 300, 700, 1400, and 3000 (HW2 72-3). 

When details are mentioned, most Middle Bronze Hittite armies are describe* 

, onsisting of both infantry and chariots (HW.2 57-8; MHT 27; GH 149). Text 

fiom this period mention capturing enemy chariots (MHT 54, 55); thirty chariot 

I .art of the spoil at the fall of a city (HW2 59). One Anatolian army consisted 

i I 100 infantry and 40 chariots, a ratio of 1 to 35 (MHT 27). Another early Lat 

onze text mentioned 200 chariots (HW2 73). Middle Bronze Hittite chariot 

hould not be confused with the later Late Bronze chariots depicted on the famou 

lirteenth-century Kadesh battle-reliefs of Ramses II, which show three-mai 

pews for many Hittite chariots (EAE 2:219-20). Contemporary depictions o 

Anatolian chariots show standard Middle Bronze two-horse, spoked- wheel vehi 

I Irs with either one or two riders (see Chapter Five). One charioteer has an axe 

lnle others use the bow from the chariot. 19 Horseriding was also known amon; 

the 1 littites; a cylinder seal shows two helmeted men on horseback with reins; th 

..I i text is apparently military, since they are accompanied by a man on foot witl 

hield and spear (FI §737). 

The importance of plunder in Hittite warfare is emphasized in many of th 
i (HW2 69). When a country was first invaded, if the enemy king and hi 
ii my withdrew to their citadel, the countryside was stripped of livestock ani 
foodstuffs and small, poorly defended villages and towns were plundered (HW 
f. l > 70; MHT 51). These captured supplies were used to feed the army during th 
forthcoming siege (MHT 50). People who were captured were enslaved; som 
were put to work at forced labor to support the army in such tasks as building 
Mcge ramp. Others, however, were simply rounded up and deported back to th 
. apital, creating large displaced slave populations (CS 2:195a). When a major cit 
was captured it was looted of all valuable possessions, and frequently burned. Th 
Hittites paid special attention to captured gold and silver, which is sometirru 
described in great detail in lists of plunder sent back to the capital (MHT 51-55; 
I Ins plunder is naturally shared with the gods - the most important allies of th 
I littite kings - and presumably with the soldiers as well, though this is general I 
mil explicitly mentioned. 

The Hurrians 20 

luirly Hutrian conquests {2400-2190) ] 

\ | | [mi i i.i ir, I n si appeal m In iniii J in ouls as mountain tribes ol south rastei 
\n.ilnha I mm sum i\ in I i" philolup.ists hav< dct« iiiutu d th 




Hurrian language is non-Indo-European; they appear to be related to the Lit - 
Urartians who also inhabited south-eastern Anatolia in the first millennium 
(DANE 311-12). Around the twenty-fourth century, Hurrian names began to 
appear in the records from the Khabur Triangle region of north-eastern Syria an< 
northern Mesopotamia. It was likely that the Hurrian conquest of that region was 
a complex phenomenon including peaceful migration, infiltration by mercenary 
bands in the pay of local city-states, followed by the rise to power of Hurrian 
mercenary warlords over predominantly Semitic inhabitants, and culminating in 
the eventual full-scale migration of Hurrian herding tribes out of the mountains 
into the more fertile river valleys (HE2 160—4). The lack of Hurrian names - " 
in the twenty- fourth century indicates that they were still restricted to the Khabui 
triangle at that time (AS 285). 

Although the precise sequence of military conquests cannot be determined, 
dynasties with Hurrian personal names and worshipping Hurrian gods - partial 
larly the storm god Teshub and goddess Shauskha - appear in a number oi 
Northern Mesopotamian city-states, including Kharbe, Nagar, and Urkesh. ' 
Tupkish, king of Urkesh, is the only Hurrian ruler known from this period (AS 
284-5), during which Hurrians for the most part adopted the urban culture of the 
city-states they conquered. We have no evidence of a distinctive Hurrian military 

Hurrian migration and domination of northern Mesopotamia and Syria vv.i 
temporarily slowed during the period of Akkadian imperialism (HE2 161—3) 
Sargon {2334-2279} campaigned in northern Mesopotamia, probably in part 
against Hurrian city-states (R2:12, 15, 28-31; WH 7-8). His grandson Naram-Sin 
{2255-2218} also campaigned in the north, capturing a number of Hurrian city 
states (R2: 91, 141; LKA 176-87; WH 8-9). The names Tahishatili of Azuhinnnm 
and Puttim-atal appear to be Hurrian city-state rulers who were among tin- 
rebellious vassals of Naram-Sin (WH 8). Naram-Sin made the Hurrian city- 
state of Nagar his regional capital, where he built a large administrative palace 
(AS 278-81). 

The second phase of Hurrian expansion {2190-1900} 

The power vacuum left in Mesopotamia in the wake of the fall of the Akkadian 
empire in 2190 was filled in part by two non-Mesopotamian peoples: the Gutians 
in the south (see pp. 102-4) and the Hurrians in the north. Throughout this 
period Urkesh seems to have been the principal Hurrian city-state. We should not, 
however, think of a Hurrian "empire" during this period. Rather, there were a 
number of northern Mesopotamian city-states ruled by independent Hurrian 
dynasties, perhaps in some sort of loose confederation, sometimes allied togethei 
but sometimes feuding. We have only vague hints from scattered fragmentary 
records alluding to Human-ruled city-states (WH 9—10). Talpus atali ruled Nagai 
in the twenty-second century, one of the first iiulepi m<I< ni llmii.ui rulers aftci 
the fall of the Akkadians. The most impoit.mi lluiii.m mli-i "I i his period was 


I Shen {21 C}, who was king of the two major Hurrian cities of Urkesh and 

i ir,u\ and probably of other cities as well (WH 9). 

i lurrian arms met a second setback during the Ur III period {2112-2004}. 

i the Gutian warlords had been overthrown and driven from Mesopotamia by 

ig Utuhegal of Uruk {2117-2111}, the successor Third Dynasty of Ur 

mpted to expand Sumerian power into northern Mesopotamia as well. Shulgi 

| I fr {2094-2047} in particular is noted for his campaigns up the Tigris river, 

re he engaged and conquered several Hurrian cities (see pp. 109-1 1). 23 Lists of 

VII slaves obtained by the Sumerians during Shulgi's wars include numerous 

I ii nan names (WH 10). Shulgi's grandson Shusin {2037-2029} continued 

uiipaigning against the Hurrians in the north until his attention was diverted by 

Amorite threat from the west (WH 10-11). Despite their success in the Tigris 

illey, neither of these two kings were able to capture the Hurrian heartland in the 

labur triangle, nor take the Hurrian 's capital city of Urkesh. 

1 1 1 the last decades the Ur III dynasty, Hurrian fortunes revived under their 

ii king Tish-atal {Y3 of Shusin = 2034}, who ruled from his capital Urkesh 

n included the cities of Nagar and Nineveh in his domain (WH 11-12). He 

mis to have successfully resisted further Ur III expansion into northern Meso- 

otamia, and wrote a temple dedicatory inscription, the oldest document in the 

I lurrian language: 

I ish-atal, endan [god-king] of Urkesh, has built a temple for [the god] 
Nerigal. . . Who destroys it, him may [the god] Lubadaga destroy. . . May the 
mistress of Nagar [the goddess Shauskha?], the sun-god, and the storm-god 
| Teshub] [destroy] him who destroys it. (WH 11) 

\n exasperating piece of evidence is a seal of unknown date and provenance 
hit h mentions "Tish-atal, king of Karahar [Harhar]" (WH 11). It is sometimes 
limed that this has reference to the city of Harhar in western Iran, north-east oi 
Uabylon. A maximalist interpretation of this data is that the Hurrian king Tish- 
ktal's domain included not only the Khabur Triangle and the upper Tigris valley 
hi also part of western Iran in the Zagros Mountains. The minimalist inter- 
in, it ion is either that the city is misidentified, or that the king is a later Tish-atal, 
i mIoi innately, the issue cannot be resolved with our limited evidence (WH 11-12) 
Another source has recently come to light giving us additional evidence o: 
I I in i ian militarism at the end of the Early Bronze Age. Based on a recently dis- 
I i Arered 1 lurrian mythological text on the fall of Ebla, Astour sees a description o: 
hi historical war between Ebla and the Human kingdom of Ikinkalish (HE2 145) 
In the course of the war the Human god Teshub ordains the destruction of EbL 
foi attacking Ikinkalish and enslaving some of its citizens (HE2 142): 

I | leshnhl will smash the outei wall [of Libia | like a goblet 

I w ill trample the min i ' 'II hi ■ i heap ol refuse. 

In t In middle <»! th. m I II » mi Ii the menlolk like a I'.obli I 



I will cast the incense burners of the upper city into the lower city 

And cast the incense burners of the lower city into the river. (HE2 156-9) 

In response to the oracle from the gods, a coalition of three Hurrian kings, 
Arib-Ibla, Paib-Ibla, and Eshe-pabu, gathered their armies and captured and 
sacked Ebla. Astour believes that the city was subsequently ruled by a dynasty of 
Hurrian descent (HE2 164). Others attribute this destruction of Ebla in around 
2000 to the Amorites. 

The subsequent history of the kingdom of Urkesh is obscure due to lack of 
textual sources. Based on later Hurrian traditions tracing their kingship back to 
Urkesh (WH 12), it is presumed that the kingdom or confederation lasted several 
generations. By the eighteenth century the rulers of most of the city-states in 
northern Mesopotamia and north-east Syria were still Hurrian. 

By the late sixteenth century, the Hurrian city-state confederations of north 
cistern Syria and northern Mesopotamia appear to have coalesced into a majo 
kingdom, destined to become one of the most powerful states of the Late Bronz 
Age: the kingdom of Mitanni (Hanigalbat) , whose capital was Washukanni. 2 
I hiring the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the Hurrian king of Mitanni wa 
I onsidered the equal and rival of the other contemporary "Great Kings" of Egypt 
Babylon, Assyria, and the Hittites, 

Hurrian expansion into Syria {1900-1600} 

In the nineteenth through the sixteenth centuries Hurrian names begin to appear 
in records throughout Syria, indicating ongoing migration. Much of this migra- 
tion was probably through the peaceful movement of merchants, mercenaries, 
craftsmen, nomads, slaves, or farmers. There is also, however, a good deal of evi- 
dence for ongoing and increasing Hurrian militarism. During these centuries 
Hurrian names appear in the texts of Mari, Emar, Ugarit, and Alalakh — where 50 
percent of the names are Hurrian - indicating the migration of either groups or 
individuals into these areas. In some of these areas Hurrians appear to have risen to 
positions of power; the king of Ursha in northern Syria seems to have a Hurrian 
name (WH 15). By the seventeenth century some Hurrian clans have also migra- 
ted as far as Canaan, where their descendants later appear as the Horites (or 
Hivites) of the Bible (Gen. 34.2, Josh. 9.7). 24 

Hurrians were also active on the south-eastern fringes of Hittite central Ana- 
tolia, and strongly resisted Hittite imperialism in Syria, A letter from the Nesha 
archive {18C} mentions a Hurrian king Anumhirbi, king of Mama, a city appar- 
ently near modern Maras in eastern Turkey (WH 12). When Hattusilis I {1650- 
1620} campaigned against Arzawa (south-west Anatolia), the army of "the enemy 
of the city of the Hurrians entered my land" and attacked him from the rear 
(MHT 51). Throughout the Hittite wars, the Hurrians seem to have been strong 
allies of Aleppo. The city of Ursha, which strongly resisted a Hittite siege by 
Hattusilis as described above (pp. 298-300), appears to have been ruled by a 
Hurrian dynasty (KH 78; WH 15). During the siege, Hattusilis ordered his soldiers 
to "Make a battering-ram in the Hurrian manner", indicating that he recognized the 
superiority of Hurrian siege technology (GH 148). On his campaign against Babylon 
in 1595, Mursilis mentions fighting Hurrians (CS 1:195a); he does not, however, 
claim to have conquered their land nor destroyed their (it it*s. The Liter, more famous 
wars between the Hittites and the Hurrian kingdom <>l Mil. mm were ( litis mere]} 
the continuation of an ongoing struggle which bej»an m the M-\niieenth leuiurv 


Pre-Dynastic and Early Dynastic Egypt 

Geographical constraints on Ancient Egyptian warfare 

The existence of Egypt as a coherent geographical and cultural concept is based on 
the interaction of the ecology of the Sahara and the Nile. The Sahara, the largest 
desert in the world, is capable of supporting only small foraging clans of hunters 
and herders. The Nile River, with its source in the rains of highland Ethiopia, 
transects the Sahara on its eastern edge, cutting a narrow and shallow canyon 
through the region (EAE 2:16-20; AAE). Before the building of the Aswan Dam 
the Nile flooded regularly, based on rain patterns in north-east Africa. The Nile 
floodplain provided a haven for animal and human life in the otherwise barren 
Sahara. Along with scattered oases, it is the only region in the Sahara where agri- 
culture can flourish. 1 Thus, in the words of the fifth-century BC Greek historian 
Herodotus, Egypt "is a gift of the [Nile] river" (Her. 2.5). Egyptian civilization 
flourished in the Nile valley and surrounding oases, and was intimately tied to the 
Nile ecology in many ways (EAE 2:543—51). 

The geographical and ecological foundation that created Egypt also set the stage 
for Egypt's military history. Surrounded by desert and ocean, the Nile valley of 
Egypt formed a coherent and highly defensible military region. Egypt is separated 
from the southern or Nubian Nile valley by a cataract, or rapid, at Aswan, which 
prevents river traffic, but which is easily bypassed by overland portage. The barrier 
of the First Cataract formed both the geographical and the cultural boundary 
between Egypt and Nubia (modern northern Sudan), and Kush (modern centra! 
Sudan) to the south. The Nile floodplain in Nubia and Kush is often too narrow 
and rocky in many regions to permit the same degree of intensive agriculture 
found in Egypt. Thus, Nubia and Kush were less densely populated than Egypt, and 
consequently generally less powerful economically and militarily than then 
northern neighbor. Although there were frequent tensions and raids on the Nubian 
frontier, the Nubians and Kushites were able to present a serious military threat to 
Egypt only when it had become internally weakened or broken into several i stairs 

To the east and west, the desert regions were inhabited by nomadic peoples, but 
the limited population levels in these regions generally prevented them from 
raising military forces strong enough lo pose ,i m.ijoi unlit. n\ tlne.ii to h.gvpt .is .i 



\,M I